There are more human beings suffering in slavery today, than there have ever been – an estimated 21 million globally. In the UK, an estimated 13,000 people have been victims. This terrible crime affects people from all over the world, but also a significant number of people from the UK.
It is vital that we work at all levels to bring these terrible practices to an end. At the Co-op we have been seeking to do our bit, with the total commitment of every one of my colleagues on the Board. We have been raising awareness of the problem and the urgent need for more action, but we have also been putting our values into practice through our ‘Bright Future’ programme. Working with the City Hearts charity we are providing paid employment for victims of modern slavery and encouraging other businesses to do the same.
The Government has passed the Modern Slavery Act 2015 which creates legal duties on a range of organisations and a framework of support for survivors. This was an important first step. It is now vital that this legislation is enforced; and the work that Co-operative MPs have been doing to shine a light on the need for more proactive enforcement is very welcome.
There is clearly more that local government can do too. This is why the Co-operative Party’s Charter Against Modern Slavery is critical. Councils procure more than £40bn of goods and services every year. This Charter is about ensuring that none of this ends up in the pockets of those who would exploit their fellow human-beings for profit.
I was honoured to be at the launch of the Charter this week and to see Councillors from across the country already signing up on behalf of their Council. I know this is just the start and that Co-operative Party Councillors from all over the country will be keen to take this forward in their Town Hall too. To find out more about how you can do this, download the Co-operative Party’s Guide.
Tackling Modern Slavery is a great example of how the Co-op can work with the Co-operative Party to be a powerful force for positive change in our society. That is why it is a partnership that I am so pleased to see going from strength to strength; and which I am always proud to support with my vote at the Co-op’s AGM.