ACTION against slavery and worker abuse needs to specifically include government projects, as workers face extreme exploitation across Britain, the Lords heard yesterday.
Baroness Young of Hornsey warned that government employees hired to work on specific contracts by the government are often “particularly vulnerable.”
Moving the second reading of her Modern Slavery (Transparency in Supply Chains) Bill, she said: “Many contract and agency workers end up working on government contracts and this type of labour is particularly vulnerable to exploitation.
“Anecdotal evidence from non-governmental organisations and trade unions points to worker exploitation on government construction contracts in the south-west of England, recycling plants in the north-west and in London.”
She added there have also been claims of “widespread worker abuse” involving social care staff.
With an estimated combined purchasing power of £45 billion, government departments are well placed to make a huge impact if they join commercial firms in publishing slavery and trafficking statements in their annual reports, she argued.
Crossbench peer Lord Alton of Liverpool voiced his support for the Bill, saying:
“Our Modern Slavery Act is exemplary, but in truth we shouldn’t get too much into a self-congratulatory mode until we have persuaded every country and every sector of society to play their part.”
Lords Home Office spokesman Lord Keen of Elie said the government plans to do more to put pressure on companies to ensure their supply chain is slavery-free.
But he said he did not think legislation is necessary.