Monday, August 22, 2016

Slavery Is Far From A Thing Of The Past
Tuesday Aug 23RD posted by Morning Star in Features

HUGH McDYER reports on how Unison Cymru/Wales black members are tackling modern-day slavery head-on

UNISON has a proud history of empowering members and promoting independence in those who can be prone to discrimination.

Our black members group works to improve equality in the workplace and challenge racism wherever it exists.

This year, Cymru/Wales black members have decided to organise a high-profile anti-slavery event in Butetown, Cardiff. Tonight, in the company of trade unionists, activists, community leaders and politicians, we will mark International Day for the Remembrance of the Slave Trade and its Abolition.

We will also hear from Stephan Chapman, the Welsh government’s anti-human trafficking co-ordinator, about the growing, insidious phenomenon of modern slavery.

He has said that we must dispel the myth that trafficking is a hidden crime. It is more of a case that people haven’t been looking for it.

Kebba Manneh, chair of Unison Cymru/Wales black members, said: “It is vital we remember the awful scale of human suffering caused by the slave trade and commemorate the achievements of the abolition movement.

“When developing our campaigning for the year, this event was seen as a key to promote our work among our membership and the local community.

“In 2016, millions of people are trapped in appalling conditions we would term modern slavery. It is a horrible fact that slavery in Wales is on the rise.”

In 2015, 134 potential victims of slavery were reported in Wales. This is a 91 per cent increase on the previous year and represents 4 per cent of all UK referrals.

Using International Labour Organisation figures, the Human Trafficking Foundation says that there are more people in slavery today across the world than in the entire 350-year history of the transatlantic slave trade.

The message of this evening’s commemoration will be to remember our brothers and sisters who through their sacrifices brought about an end to the slave trade and we will call for solidarity throughout society to take action to ensure slavery in every form is eliminated.

We know that modern-day slavery has taken on new and different forms.

It is very likely to be happening somewhere near you and its effects can be felt across all levels of society.

It could be the woman trapped in servitude or trafficked into the sex trade, the man in forced labour or the child who has been trafficked by criminal gangs and suffered horrendous abuse.

Victims of modern slavery do not wear a label and this is why everyone has a role to play.

There have been positive, pro-active steps taken in Wales with the appointment of an anti-human trafficking co-ordinator.

There is a real opportunity for organisations and communities to pull together to combat modern slavery and trade unions will rightly play a significant part in this.

As the largest public-sector union in the UK and with 100,000 members in Wales, there is a role for Unison in educating our members and the wider community in recognising the signs of exploitation.
Victims of modern slavery will often be fearful and reluctant to seek any help.

Many come to Britain to try and escape abuse with the promise of a better life only to find they experience further exploitation.

Unison Cymru/Wales wants to work more closely with employers to ensure that procurement procedures are robust in ensuring that goods and services are procured from ethical sources. We are clear that this must include a thorough checking of a company’s background.

The Welsh government has published advice on the signs of slavery. Due to the nature of slavery and the reluctance or inability of those affected to seek help, you may not realise if you’ve come into contact with a victim.

Some of the things to look out for include:
Limited family contact
Physical abuse
Distrust of authority
Having no friends
Acting as if under another’s control
Appearing malnourished
Avoiding eye contact
Unable to speak any English

To report slavery you should call the Modern Slavery Helpline on 0800 0121-700. There is also a telephone number providing support for victims: 0800 731-8147.

n Hugh McDyer is a Unison organiser responsible for Cymru/Wales black members.

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