More than 80 councils sign anti-slavery charter

Hope for Justice has welcomed the rapid rise in UK local authorities signing up to the Charter Against Modern Slavery, committing them to improved procurement practices, protection for whistleblowers and an insistence that contractors comply fully with the Modern Slavery Act 2015.

Hope for Justice 'Spot the Signs' messaging in Bradford's Centenary Square for Anti-Slavery Day 2017

Hope for Justice ‘Spot the Signs’ messaging in Bradford’s Centenary Square for Anti-Slavery Day 2017

Yesterday (Tuesday) Bradford Council – where Hope for Justice opened its first Investigative Hub, five years ago – became the latest authority to sign up, after a motion was introduced by the council leader and passed with unanimous cross-party backing.

There have been 77 arrests for human trafficking in Bradford – the highest figure in West Yorkshire – since the Act was introduced in 2015 to crack down on modern slavery. A spokesperson for West Yorkshire Police said: “The team has had specialist training in human trafficking both in-force and from partner agencies such as Hope for Justice.”

The Charter Against Modern Slavery was launched and is being promoted by the Co-operative Party.

Hope for Justice and our business membership initiative, Slave-Free Alliance, are keen to ensure that users and buyers of goods and services – whether individual consumers, other businesses, or public sector organisations – are aware of their ethical obligations to ensure everything they buy is free from slavery. Large procurers, like councils, have a key role to play in this by ensuring their actual policies and practices reflect their moral principles.

Hope for Justice Communications Manager Adam Hewitt said: “It is great to see so many councils signing up to this Charter, with the numbers having nearly doubled in just two months. We would urge every council to consider signing up, and would love to see businesses who work with councils to take all the steps they can to work towards a slave-free supply chain. Our training for professionals in the public, private and voluntary sectors encourages better procurement practices, and many of the action points raised by this Charter are applicable to many other types of organisation – and individuals – as well.”

The Charter Against Modern Slavery has now been signed by more than 80 councils, from small town and parish councils up to the largest county councils, London boroughs and metropolitan districts.

Co-operative Party general secretary, Claire McCarthy, said recently: “Since Manchester cotton workers boycotted slave-grown cotton during the American Civil War, campaigning for justice and fair trade have been in the co-op movement’s DNA and we are very proud about that the Charter has been adopted by so many councils across the country.”

Our charity works closely with the Co-op organisation, including as a charity partner for the Bright Future employment and training initiative for survivors of modern slavery. In July, more than 100 Co-op staff, including Policy & Campaigns director Paul Gerrard, walked from the organisation’s Manchester offices to the movement’s ‘spiritual home’ in Rochdale, Pioneers Museum, to raise money for Hope for Justice.

The 10 pledges that each council is committing to by signing the Charter are as follows. Your council will:

1. Train its corporate procurement team to understand modern slavery through the Chartered Institute of Procurement and Supply’s (CIPS) online course on Ethical Procurement and Supply.
2. Require its contractors to comply fully with the Modern Slavery Act 2015, wherever it applies, with contract termination as a potential sanction for non-compliance.
3. Challenge any abnormally low-cost tenders to ensure they do not rely upon the potential contractor practising modern slavery.
4. Highlight to its suppliers that contracted workers are free to join a trade union and are not to be treated unfairly for belonging to one.
5. Publicise its whistle-blowing system for staff to blow the whistle on any suspected examples of modern slavery.
6. Require its tendered contractors to adopt a whistle-blowing policy which enables their staff to blow the whistle on any suspected examples of modern slavery.
7. Review its contractual spending regularly to identify any potential issues with modern slavery.
8. Highlight for its suppliers any risks identified concerning modern slavery and refer them to the relevant agencies to be addressed.
9. Refer for investigation via the National Crime Agency’s national referral mechanism any of its contractors identified as a cause for concern regarding modern slavery.
10. Report publicly on the implementation of this policy annually.