Anti-Slavery Day 2023: Tackling Modern Slavery in Engineering

Posted on 18 October 2023

Anti-Slavery Day is an opportunity to raise awareness of the fact that there are over 49.6 million people worldwide and around 136,000 in the UK who are trapped in conditions of modern slavery today but it doesn’t have to be.

Anti-Slavery Day is a reminder for governments, businesses, friends, families, and colleagues to come together and do all they can to put an end to human trafficking and ensure the safety of those trapped in modern-day slavery.

What is Modern Slavery?

Modern slavery is a deeply troubling issue where people are unjustly exploited for personal or financial gain. It comes in various distressing forms, such as forcing individuals into labour, exploiting them sexually or criminally, or making them endure domestic servitude. Victims of modern slavery often find themselves in these harrowing situations due to threats, violence, or coercion.

The consequences can be heart-wrenching, as those trapped in this cycle may:
  • Struggle to make ends meet, receiving meagre pay or sometimes no compensation at all.

  • Bear the weight of crushing wage deductions, often in the form of debts that seem impossible to repay.

  • Toil in gruelling, often unsafe working conditions.

  • Suffer through humiliating and degrading treatment.

  • Live in appalling, unsanitary accommodations.

  • Have their very identity documents stripped away, leaving them vulnerable and powerless.

Exploitation of workers takes on many disheartening forms, including:
  • Human trafficking is where individuals are forcibly moved or recruited under threat, force, or coercion, all to exploit them.

  • Forced labour, which compels people to work against their will, is driven by the fear of punishment.

  • Unscrupulous landlords pack people into overcrowded and hazardous living spaces, wielding threats of eviction or intimidation tactics.

  • Work-finding fees, a practice where individuals are compelled to pay for job opportunities, a practice that is illegal in the UK.

Statistics of modern slavery in the UK
  • 45.8 million people in some form of modern slavery

  • 7.6 million people in forced labour

  • Around 27.6 million people are believed to be trapped in forced labour worldwide in various forms

The warning signs

Some tell-tale signs could indicate that something is wrong. This could include:

-Workers who don’t have written contracts of employment

-Workers who have had to pay fees to obtain work

-Workers who aren’t able to prove they are legally entitled to work in the UK

-Workers showing signs of physical abuse and/or appear malnourished or unkempt

-Workers who seem to have few personal possessions or often wear the same clothes

-Workers who appear frightened or reluctant to talk to other

-Workers who are dropped off or collected for work by the same person regularly, either very early or very late at night

-A large number of people working for you listed as living at the same address may indicate high shared occupancy – often a factor for those being exploited

-Agencies charging suspiciously low rates against standard industry pricing.

Who's at risk?

Anyone can be a victim of modern slavery – male or female, adults or children, British citizens or those from outside the UK.

Those at highest risk are migrant workers often with limited English language speaking skills. They may not understand their rights and how to enforce them which can result in individuals settling for what they think is normal or a ‘better than nothing’ situation.

Modern Slavery in the Engineering Industry

Modern slavery in the engineering industry in the UK is a grave and pressing concern. This sector, like many others, is not immune to the insidious presence of modern slavery and exploitation.

In today's interconnected world, global supply chains are like intricate puzzles, and they labour in the field of engineering. Unfortunately, this complexity can create an environment where unethical practices can flourish. Let's delve into some critical aspects of modern slavery within the engineering industry in the UK:

Forced Labour

In some cases, workers may be forced to work against their will, typically through deception, coercion, or threats. They might be made to work long hours in unsafe conditions without proper compensation or benefits.

Debt Bondage:

Workers, including migrant workers, may be trapped in a cycle of debt, with their wages garnished to pay off recruitment fees, travel expenses, and other costs. This effectively binds them to their employers or recruiters.

Exploitation in the Supply Chain

The engineering industry often relies on a vast and complex global supply chain, making it difficult to trace the origin of products and the labour conditions under which they were produced. This opacity can facilitate the perpetuation of modern slavery.

Subcontracting and Outsourcing

Many engineering companies subcontract or outsource various parts of their operations, which can lead to a lack of oversight and control over labour practices further down the supply chain.

Migrant Workers

Migrant workers can be particularly vulnerable to exploitation due to language barriers, unfamiliarity with local laws, and dependence on their employers or recruiters for visas and work permits.

Lack of Awareness

In some cases, workers may not be fully aware of their rights or the labour laws in the UK. This lack of awareness can be exploited by unscrupulous employers.

Inadequate Regulation

While the UK has taken steps to combat modern slavery with the Modern Slavery Act, there is still room for improvement in terms of regulation, enforcement, and reporting requirements, particularly within the complex engineering supply chains.

Tackling Modern Slavery in the Engineering Industry

To combat modern slavery in the engineering industry, we must join forces, involving governments, corporations, labor unions, and non-governmental organisations. This collaboration should aim to bring greater transparency to supply chains, empower workers through improved awareness and education, and ensure the robust enforcement of anti-slavery laws.

Anti-Slavery Day is a day when governments, businesses, families, friends, and colleagues unite to stand together against human trafficking and to protect those who endure this awful crime.By spreading the word, encouraging honesty, and upholding laws against slavery, we can strive to eliminate all the different forms of modern slavery.

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