An unpalatable truth?

We all love a bargain. We know when we buy something cheaply from the ‘back of a van’ its origins are unknown. We know from Trading Standards that some products sold in this way can be counterfeit containing ingredients that can harm us – think perfumes etc. Toys brought in this fashion can be dangerous with small parts that can choke.

We know the risks of buying from these sources.

However, there have been regular exposes over the years of abuses including in the recent past sweatshops making designer clothing. The end product was at the designer’s price so the consumer would not be expected to know the person who made the dress could be working in unsafe conditions on minimum wages, which they were.

It’s long been unspoken concern that products made in some countries use forced labour – to me the same as slaves. Do we question where our iPhones or other tech is made, what those on the production lines are paid, what conditions they live and work in?

Today, the BBC spoke to their Asia Business Manager Marika Oi who explained the Daily Telegraph broadsheet had written a piece of concern about China using ‘forced labour’ i.e. detained muslims in their cotton production exported worldwide including to the UK. Dominic Raab, is making a statement in the House of Commons today urging companies to check their supply chain to ensure we do not receive these goods in the west.

We cannot do anything about historic slavery, but should we now be questioning where the goods we buy are made and who by? It doesn’t feel acceptable anymore to feel we paid a huge sum of money for this product, therefore it could not have been by anyone other than someone living and working in good conditions earning a good rate of pay.

Profits are seen as an indicator of a successful business. Should a positive socially acceptable reputation be a better one?

Education – more precious than health?

It seems so to Sophie in Ghana from a report in The Sunday Times last weekend.

The report’s aim was, I think, to raise awareness of child labour in the production of gold for sale in Europe and Dubai as the picture below shows.

Sophie uses the £2.20 she earns a day to pay for her school books. I had to read that twice. In the UK, we take free education as a right. Yet we don’t always value its power. Are we too quick to exclude disruptive children without investigating and understanding what’s going on for them? Maybe families who don’t encourage their children to go to school should be supported to overcome their fears and see the value of their children having real choices and see they can access education and training if they want to.

Education enables social mobilisation, removing people from poverty enabling them to literally change their lives. Yet some of our citizens are not brought up to value and respect the offer of free education they have access to. The same offer, people like Sophie would love to have instead of risking her health to mine gold.

Equally, another thought struck me. Do we question enough where the goods we are buying comes from? Who produced them? What risks they took for a pittance? A resounding ‘no’ is the likely answer.

Shouldn’t all children have the offer of free education as an automatic right regardless of where they live? They are the future of the world. The ones that will find cures for the world’s diseases and problems. If we don’t invest in world’s children, what awaits us all?

Labels = Stereotyping

Quite rightly there is a lot of talk around ‘slave labour’ and ‘modern slavery’.  There is an undercurrent of this in the UK especially in the ‘hidden market’.  There are vulnerable people who are exploited and their ‘exploiters’ – I won’t say employers – quiet rightly should be held to account.

 

However, I do believe this isn’t a black and white subject.  I now hear of unpaid interns, work experience and similar programmes being labeled ‘modern slavery’ or exploitation.  Is this right/fair?

 

From the Modern Slavery Act 2015  this definition is to me is very clear ‘These crimes include holding a person in a position of slavery , servitude forced or compulsory labour, or facilitating their travel with the intention of exploiting them soon after’

 

For those of us stereotyped by society due to our personal circumstances such as homeless, unemployed, single parent, on the domestic violence register, mental health or physical issues need a different route to sustainable employment to those not living with these labels.

 

Some time ago I was a single parent, officially homeless with two children under 6, on the domestic violence register and holding down a number of deadend casual jobs to feed my children.  Although not diagnosed, the situation I was in was clearly making me anxious and depressed.

 

I knew the only way I could change my circumstances for the long term was to secure a job which would lead to a career.  But how could I do that?  I hadn’t worked in the previous 10 years apart from building up a business with my ex-husband who was not going to give me a reference!  I saw the look on employers faces when I mentioned I was a single parent and officially homeless.

 

Then I had an idea.  Before having my family, I’d worked for a global organisation in financial services.  I was not on benefits – the DHSS at the time (prior to JobCentre Plus) advised me to get married again – sensitive right?   I found a local accountant and offered to work for them for no money for a week.  At the end of that week I would either be paid and given a permanent part time role or I would be unpaid and released.  I worked for that accountant for over four years before  securing a permanent full-time role in recruitment which led to some amazing achievements including setting-up my own business.

 

Was I exploited?  No I had an opportunity to learn a role and showcase what I could do without having to ‘sell myself’ at interview with little recent experience and zero confidence.

 

Years later whilst working for a national facilities company as Recruitment Manager, I noticed how difficult it was to recruit and sustain local people.  There are a lot of residential estates around Canary Wharf but, at the time, a lot of 3rd even 4th generation unemployed families.  I remembered my experience all those years before and devised the Real Apprentice.  A work experience programme that focussed on building self-esteem and work place ettiquette.  The Real Apprentice ran for over eight years and got 75% into permanent jobs.

 

The Real Apprentice was vetted by multiple award bodies during this period and won several awards year on year including BiTC – Big Tick, Dragon Award – Lord Mayor, Opportunity Now, Race for Opportunity, ENEI, The best of Europe against 23 countries  and a Justice Award.

 

So clearly – no one felt the Real Apprentice was in the category of the often, and not always correctly, used term ‘modern slavery’.

 

I was approached by one leading employer from the Real Apprentice and challenged to devise something better. In December 2013 Growing Talent was devised with a provisional  permanent job offer upfront, an Orientation Week to build confidence and work place etiquette prior to going on site, a Holistic Week to deliver soft skills knowledge including personal finance, fitness, nutrition, art, as well as qualification as a Mental Health First Aider. An audit trail provides accurate progression status and is managed by the individual.  Unpaid, participants retain their benefits and have their travel paid.  If they choose to drop out they are not penalised by JCP.  Giving them control and the ability to showcase what they can do without the pressure of traditional recruitment. Over 140 people from all backgrounds have secured permanent jobs and flourished

 

No cvs, no formal interviews and no job descriptions.

 

For those who don’t have ‘labels’ and aren’t stereotyped their default is often straight to shout exploitation/modern slavery.  Just think for a  moment.  If you were stereotyped because of your ‘label’ would you be able to showcase your ability in a formal recruitment interview?

 

For those of us who have experienced this stereotyping, we need a different, bespoke solution to securing a permanent sustainable role.

 

What do you think?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Modern Slavery & Human Trafficking – What I’ve learnt….

Today I did an online two hour course by High Speed Training – and thankfully passed!

 

The modules were broken down into clear, informative parts for the lay person.  We all make assumptions about terms such as ‘Modern Slavery’ ‘Trafficking’ ‘Exploitation’.  The misconception is this goes on in hidden areas – not in our circles.  However, key industries these issues have been found in include hospitality, fishing, factory work, food processing, leaflet delivery, tarmac, paving, agriculture, cannabis farms (these are in residential houses), domestic servitude, sex industry and criminal gangs – ATM thefts etc.

 

In 2000 the UN met in Palermo, Italy to agree three protocols.  Clearly 18 years later, the problem is still there.  So learning some possible signs and what agencies to involve has got to be a good thing.  Knowledge is power after all.

 

Learning about the tools used by traffickers, including religious beliefs, has been an eye opener.  Equally understanding and supporting someone who has experienced any kind of trauma/abuse can be misunderstood as lying due to not always being able to recall events easily or in the right order.  We must remember trauma interferes with this process – people aren’t always lying.

 

Let’s not assume.

 

If you are interested in doing this online course check out http://www.highspeedtraining.co.uk.

 

 

Website Built with WordPress.com.

Up ↑