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Civil society organisations, including BHRRC, publish joint response to UK Government’s first Modern Slavery Statement

“Joint civil society response to the UK Government’s Modern Slavery Statement”, 08 April 2020

We commend the publication of the Government’s Modern Slavery statement, a welcome step to harness the potential of responsible public procurement to address risks of modern slavery in corporate supply chains.

… [W]orkers in precarious jobs … are more vulnerable to … exploitation. Government … protect the lives of exploited workers and those at risk of exploitation. The highest international labour standards should be upheld both during and post- the COVID-19 crisis.

We recommend that the Government builds on its approach by taking the following steps:

  1. Document specific instances where risks or impacts have been addressed in public sector supply chains;
  2. … [E]xclude bidders non-compliant with the TISC requirement of the Modern Slavery Act from the tender process
  3. Recognise and act on the need to put … unions [and] freedom of association … at the forefront of anti-slavery efforts
  4. Ensure a … cross-departmental approach, including enhanced labour market inspection and enforcement.

… R[evision] of the Modern Slavery Act … to require local authorities and other public bodies to publish modern slavery statements … [and] enforce the production of meaningful modern slavery statements from companies

Below, we highlight some … commendable elements of the statement and some recommendations…

Improving due diligence processes…

We welcome …the commitment … to map highest risk supply chains, starting with tier two. It is important … to map risks of modern slavery beyond tier one and tier two suppliers. 

The statement details the Government’s work to help suppliers assess risks through the Modern Slavery Assessment Tool (MSAT) …making these assessments publicly available would enhance transparency ….

…. [F]uture statements by Government departments should detail specific … [of] a risk of slavery and human trafficking … or where violations have taken place; the actions … [taken]  and provide remediation

Exclusion of non-compliant companies from public contracts

The statement mentions the exclusion of bidders for public contracts who have been convicted of certain modern slavery offences under the Act. We also urge the Government to … exclude bidders noncompliant with the TISC requirement …

Work with trade unions and civil society

… We recommend that the Government put trade unions, collective bargaining and freedom of association at the forefront of efforts to tackle exploitative working practises…. Disclose how it will engage … with trade unions and … migrant worker organisations…

Ensuring a cohesive cross-departmental approach

… We urge the Government to implement a cohesive policy approach to addressing modern slavery across all departments, including development assistance, foreign policy, trade policy, labour market policy and enforcement and migration policy…

… Government should be cognisant of abusive labour practices that contribute to more extreme forms of exploitation…  

…  [W]e strongly emphasise that modern slavery risks should not be exacerbated by immigration policy and enforcement…