Call to adopt charter against modern slavery in Calderdale

Calderdale Council leader Councillor Tim Swift
Calderdale Council leader Councillor Tim Swift

Councillors are being asked to adopt a charter against modern slavery so its guidelines will ensure any of Calderdale Council’s procurement practices do not support it.

Council leader Councillor Tim Swift (Lab, Town) is asking tonight’s full meeting of the council (Wednesday, July 18, 6pm at Halifax Town Hall) to adopt the Co-operative Party’s Charter against Modern Slavery.

The charter sets out processes by which the council can ensure that it will never support modern slavery even inadvertently.

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If adopted the charter will require the council’s corporate procurement team to understand modern slavery by taking part in an online course, will require its contractors to comply fully with the Modern Slavery Act 2016 wherever it applied with contract termination as a potential sanction for non-compliance, and will challenge any “abnormally low-cost” tenders to ensure they do not rely on a potential contractor practising modern slavery.

It will also highlight to its suppliers that contracted workers are free to join a trade union and not be treated unfairly for belonging to one, will publicise its whistle-blowing system for staff on any suspected examples of modern slavery, and require its tendered contractors to adopt a whistle-blowing policy on any such suspected examples.

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If adopted the charter will also require the council to review its contractual spending regularly to identify any potential issues, will highlight for its suppliers any risks identified concerning modern slavery and refer them to relevant agencies to be addressed, and refer for investigation via the National Crime Agency any of its contractors identified as a cause for concern regarding modern slavery.

Calderdale Council would report on the implementation of the policy annually.

Councillor Swift’s motion says: “Though slavery was abolished in the UK in 1833, there are more slaves today than ever before in human history.

“Figures from the International Labour organisation suggest there are more than 40 million people in modern slavery across the world with nearly 25 million held in forced labour.

“There were 3,805 victims of modern slavery identified in the UK in 2016, a rising number but still well below the 10,000 to 13,000 potential victims estimated by the Home Office.”

Modern slavery can also include sexual and criminal exploitation.

Action to raise awareness needs to be taken, current support for victims is not sufficient and councils have an important role to ensure their contracts and supplies do not contribute to modern day slavery and exploitation, said Councillor Swift.