Modern Slavery Month of Action

On Saturday, Co-operative Party MPs, Assembly Members, councillors and members came together in Cardiff to make their pledges to help end Modern Slavery.

In 2017, 193 referrals of potential victims of modern slavery in Wales were reported, representing a 57% increase from 2016. I suspect what may be happening is that we’re beginning to scratch to the surface of the true extent of this heinous crime.

More positively, the Welsh Government is leading the way, not just in the UK but in the world. The Welsh Government’s Code of Practice for Ethical Employment in Supply Chains commits public, private, and third sector organisations to a set of actions that tackle illegal and unfair employment practices – which include modern slavery. The Code’s supporting guides contain tools and advice to help put the commitments into practice. Its strength comes from the fact that all organisations that receive funding from Welsh Government either directly (or via grants or contracts) are expected to sign up to the code. In the same way that we as individuals can choose to shop ethically, Welsh Government is using its spending power wisely.

The Code commits organisations to developing a written policy on ethical employment, appoint an Anti-Slavery and Ethical Employment Champion, embrace a whistle-blowing scheme, train those in procurement on the danger signs of modern slavery, provide a mechanism for people outside the organisation to raise suspicions of unlawful and unethical employment practices as well as several other very sensible steps. What perhaps is astonishing is that these are not already universal in the public and private sectors.

I welcome that the Co-operative Party is running ‘Month of Action on Modern Slavery’ and I’m delighted that they are encouraging councils in England and Scotland to implement a ‘Charter’ on modern slavery; the Charter is largely based on the pioneering work of the Welsh Government and our Code.

Yes, we should be proud that the Welsh Government is leading the fight against modern slavery. But let’s not get too carried away. As the statistics seem to suggest, we’ve got a very long way to go before this scourge is eliminated from society.

Jeff Cuthbert, Labour & Co-operative Police & Crime Commissioner for Gwent