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Cross-party group demand measures to prevent Covid-19 causing spike in modern slavery.

May 7, 2020 7:16 PM
By Danny Simm
Originally published by Wigan, Leigh and Makerfield Liberal Democrats

A cross-party group led by the Liberal Democrats have set out a package of demands to protect workers from exploitation during the coronavirus crisis and prevent a rise in modern slavery, including classifying labour inspection as 'essential work' to enable inspectors to ensure workplaces are operating appropriately.

The package of measures, supported by the charity Focus on Labour Exploitation, also include adequate personal protective equipment for labour inspectors and emergency funding to labour market enforcement and advisory agencies to enable them to conduct preventative campaigns and monitoring, especially in high-risk sectors.

Christine Jardine (Christine Jardine)

Christine Jardine MP

Liberal Democrat Home Affairs spokesperson Christine Jardine, who has organised support from nearly 60 MPs and peers from across the political spectrum, has warned that unless the Government takes these common-sense steps to ensure labour inspections can continue, Ministers are "risking a spike in modern slavery on top of the misery caused by coronavirus" with people forced to take job offers with abusive or exploitative conditions to earn a living.
According to Focus on Labour Exploitation (FLEX), the Coronavirus crisis is having a particularly strong impact on workers who were already at higher risk of experiencing labour abuses and exploitation. This includes women, migrant workers, and workers in low-paid yet vital sectors such as agriculture, domestic work, cleaning, deliveries and warehousing.
Liberal Democrat Home Affairs spokesperson Christine Jardine said:
"It's absolutely vital that we recognise that the coronavirus crisis is leaving the most vulnerable in our communities at risk. Thousands of families will face unprecedented financial hardship and the Government is not doing nearly enough to protect people from falling into modern slavery.
"Unless the Government takes these common-sense steps to ensure labour inspections can continue, it is risking a spike in modern slavery on top of the misery caused by coronavirus.
"Modern slavery is a scourge that must not be allowed to flourish during the coronavirus crisis. The Government's inaction must not continue."

Lucila Granada, CEO of Focus on Labour Exploitation (FLEX), added:

"Labour inspectors play a crucial role in keeping our workplaces and essential workers safe during these difficult times. The failure to include them as 'essential workers' is an oversight that must be rectified immediately.

"Our research has found that workers are already experiencing pandemic-related abuses. This includes refusal of entitlements to sick pay, forcing people with symptoms to go to work who should be self-isolating to protect their own and the public health. "In addition, many low paid workers are losing their jobs and urgently seeking new income; desperation will prevent them from saying 'no' to abusive conditions, making inspection even more imperative than ever before. Without this in place, we may see a surge in modern slavery cases over the coming months.
"We urge the government to classify inspectors as essential workers and ensure they have sufficient PPE and funding to protect our workforce and support the national effort against COVID-19."