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Gauntlet thrown down to challenge ‘slave masters’ supplying services to Tower Hamlets Council

PUBLISHED: 11:03 14 June 2018 | UPDATED: 14:05 14 June 2018

Tower Hamlets signs up to 'Modern Slavery' charter to bannish the slave masters. Picture: Tehmoor Khalid/Co-operative Party

Tower Hamlets signs up to 'Modern Slavery' charter to bannish the slave masters. Picture: Tehmoor Khalid/Co-operative Party

Tehmoor Khalid/Co-operative Party

A charter banning modern slavery has been signed by Tower Hamlets Council to stop ‘slave masters’ who might be supplying them with goods and services.

Deputy Mayor Rachel Blake speaks at Co-op party local government conference on banning modern slavery. Picture: Tehmoor Khalid/Co-operative Party Deputy Mayor Rachel Blake speaks at Co-op party local government conference on banning modern slavery. Picture: Tehmoor Khalid/Co-operative Party

The charter aims to ensure no slavery takes place with suppliers using forced labour to make profit.

It was signed by deputy mayor for regeneration Rachel Blake, bringing the number of committed local authorities to 12.

“This is such an important issue,” Cllr Blake said. “The charter is a strong step forward in tackling modern slavery and I’m pleased to sign it for Tower Hamlets.”

She put her name to the charter at Saturday’s Co-operative Party’s local government conference on behalf of Tower Hamlets Council which runs a £1.2 billion annual budget.

Mayor John Biggs threw the gauntlet down and vowed that he would cancel any contract where exploitation or “21st-century slavery” was found.

He said: “We are determined to tackle modern slavery head on to root it out by signing the charter to send a strong message that we won’t tolerate any form of exploitation.”

The term ‘modern slavery’ can include sexual and criminal exploitation, domestic servitude, forced labour, organ removal and illegal adoption, as well as forced begging, benefit fraud or marriage.

Traffickers and ‘slave masters’ coerce, deceive and force victims into a life of abuse, servitude and inhumane treatment, campaigners point out.

Local authorities have statutory duties under the 2015 Modern Slavery Act.

But the Co-Operative party’s charter goes further with commitments to stop their suppliers exploiting their workers, which it says can occur “under our noses” in places like nail bars, car washes, farms, factories and restaurants. An estimated 13,000 victims are caught up in ‘modern slavery’ in Britain every year.

The charter requires supply and services contracts to be terminated as a sanction for non-compliance.

It challenges any abnormally low-cost tenders to ensure they don’t rely on modern slavery, insists that all workers are free to join a trade union and are not unfairly treated for belonging to one and also requires a whistle-blowing policy.

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