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Agriculture firms not doing enough to prevent modern slavery, study finds

Agricultural companies are failing to demonstrate what they are doing to end labour exploitation in their workforce.

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A study published by the University of Nottingham’s Rights Lab, in partnership with the office of the Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner, showed companies were failing to produce Modern Slavery Statements which are required to outline what steps a company is taking to ensure modern slavery is eradicated from its business and supply chains.

 

The report found only 46 per cent of these statements were complaint with the law and 60 per cent lacked any mention of the effectiveness of the steps taken to address slavery.

 

Andrew Phillips, lead author of the report, said: “Overall these findings are of concern as they show a lack of transparency and commitment to ending modern slavery.

 

“These statements are vital in giving consumers an opportunity to check what companies are doing, if anything, to make our food production slavery-free.”

 

Mr Phillips said farm workers and those within the agri-food supply chain were more vulnerable than those in other industries.

 

He added: “They work some of the longest hours, have no job security because they are easily replaced, and there is a reliance on low-skilled seasonal labour.


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“If you combine this with pressure from food retailers to keep prices low for their customers, you create the conditions in which exploitation can occur.”

 

The report makes a number of recommendations, including the introduction of legal action against companies that do not fully comply with the requirements of the statement.

 

The Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority (GLAA) said most of the intelligence it received about labour exploitation related to the agriculture sector.

 

GLAA director of operations Ian Waterfield said: “Regulation plays a key role in protecting vulnerable workers from exploitation in the sectors where it is in place.

 

"However, businesses themselves also need to act responsibly by producing statements which demonstrate a clear awareness and engagement with the problem of modern slavery and labour exploitation.”

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