OPINION: Roger Bannister, chief executive of the Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority (GLAA) explains how to spot the signs of modern slavery.
Spotting the signs of modern slavery and labour exploitation in the workplace is no easy task. After all, most of us understandably associate slavery with something which was abolished in the UK hundreds of years ago.
However, modern slavery sadly exists across our country to this day, with thousands of workers abused and exploited by unscrupulous bosses. Much of this is controlled by organised criminal gangs, who are only too aware of the profits they can make from using people as commodities.
Our intelligence suggests that people recruited to work in the UK who struggle with English often end up being placed in recycling centres. The vulnerable workers come from countries like Romania, Lithuania and Moldova. We also have information that exploitation may be occurring in clothing recycling factories, with juvenile workers present.
We are determined to stamp out these working practices. Since the government granted us new police-style powers in 2017, we have arrested over 100 people, identified more than 1,000 abused workers, and doubled our workforce.
This is real progress in the fight against modern slavery and labour exploitation, achieved with only around 125 members of staff in the entire organisation. Clearly though with such finite resources, we are reliant on our partnerships with the police, local and central government, charities and employers.
So how can you help?
The most important thing to remember is if you suspect modern slavery or labour abuse, make sure you act and contact us. One call to us can change people’s lives forever. Doing nothing is not an option as the exploitation will only continue and probably worsen.
As for spotting the signs, we have six key indicators: restricted freedom, behaviour, working conditions, accommodation, finances and appearance.
Restricted freedom includes everything from victims not being in possession of their passports, having no access to medical care, and threats being made against their family.
Behaviour can be something innocuous such as workers being unable to speak English fluently. However, it also includes a distrust of the authorities, never leaving their place of work without their boss, and resorting to crime for money or food.
Victims may regularly work excessively long hours, have no days off, be forced to work under certain conditions and lack the ability to choose when or where they work.
“Victims may regularly work excessively long hours, have no days off, be forced to work under certain conditions and lack the ability to choose when or where they work.”Roger Bannister
If they live in sub-standard accommodation, live in groups where they work, or in other degrading, unsuitable places, they may well be suffering from exploitation.
In terms of financial exploitation, victims may receive little or no payment, have no access to their earnings, or be disciplined through punishment and fines.
Appearance is probably the easiest to spot. Has someone suffered injuries consistent with an assault? Have they suffered injuries that could be because someone has control over them? If so, they could be a victim of modern slavery.
If you have any suspicions, call our intelligence team on 0800 4320804 or email email@example.com.
By working together, we can defeat modern slavery and protect vulnerable workers from labour abuse and exploitation.