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Public Works is UNISON Scotland's campaign for jobs, services, fair taxation and the Living Wage. This blog will provide news and analysis on the delivery of public services in Scotland. We welcome comments and if you would like to contribute to this blog, please contact Kay Sillars k.sillars@unison.co.uk - For other information on what's happening in UNISON Scotland please visit our website.

Friday, 22 November 2013

How companies make money from forced labour

New research from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation adds timely evidence to current debates on forced labour and modern day slavery in the UK. This has been highlighted in debates at UNISON's Scottish Council and by service groups.

The research analyses how different types of UK industries make money from forced labour, this study finds that:

• How the UK economy functions creates a pool of people who are vulnerable to forced labour. People who are excluded from formal work (by policy or practice) and those in jobs at or near minimum wage levels are most susceptible to forced labour.

• Forced labour is used when it makes business sense to do so, and is strongly associated with informality in the labour market (which takes different forms in different sectors).

• Sector-specific conditions that allow for the possibility of forced labour include:
–– illegality of the product (cannabis);
–– volatility and self-regulation of labour providers (construction industry); and
–– seasonality (food sector).

Current approaches are limited in their effectiveness to prevent, detect or prosecute offences. Industry self-regulation (in some sectors of the economy) and inadequate enforcement of labour standards appears to create a sense of impunity among employers. The researchers recommend a multi-stakeholder action plan to co-ordinate activities that price and regulate forced labour out of the UK.

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