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UK: Has the Modern Slavery Act left the UK’s most exploited workers even more vulnerable?

UK: Has the Modern Slavery Act left the UK’s most exploited workers even more vulnerable?

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by IDWFED published Nov 13, 2015 12:00 AM
Contributors: Tamara Gausi/Equal Times
An estimated 16,000 migrants, nearly all women, come to the UK on domestic worker visas each year. Excluded from most labour laws, they work in private households, often without clear terms of employment. As a result, they are extremely vulnerable to exploitation and abuse such as overwork, unpaid wages, restrictions on freedom of movement, sexual harassment, psychological abuse and violence.

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Read the original article in full: Has the Modern Slavery Act left the UK’s most exploited workers even more vulnerable? | Equal Times

Excerpt:

At first glance, the United Kingdom appears to be at the forefront of the international fight against forced labour and trafficking. This March, it passed the Modern Slavery Act, becoming the first country in the European Union and one of the first countries in the world to attempt to tackle – in law – the modern manifestations of slavery, which affect as many as 13,000 people in the UK and an estimated 21 million people globally.

According to the UK Home Office, the Act “significantly enhances support and protection for victims, gives law enforcement the tools they need to target today’s slave drivers, ensures perpetrators can be severely punished, and includes a world leading provision to encourage business to take action to ensure their end-to-end supply chains are slavery free.”

But what the law says and what the law does is quite different, according to campaigners. Sean Bamford, a policy officer with the UK’s Trades Union Congress (TUC) working on trafficking and forced labour, says there isn’t much that new about the Modern Slavery Act, as essentially it “tidies up” pre-existing laws into a single bill.

“Consolidation can be a good idea but it was perfectly evident to us that in existing law there was inadequate protection and support for victims of trafficking and forced labour. The new bill doesn’t address this at all.”

Significantly, the law also fails to cohere with elements of Britain’s increasingly restrictive and punitive immigration policy; and nowhere is this incongruence more apparent than in the treatment of migrant domestic workers.

As a publication produced by the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) explains, attempts to look at the gender aspects of trafficking tend to focus on women and sexual exploitation, but domestic workers offers a stark example of the interplay between gender and labour trafficking.

An estimated 16,000 migrants, nearly all women, come to the UK on domestic worker visas each year. Excluded from most labour laws, they work in private households, often without clear terms of employment. As a result, they are extremely vulnerable to exploitation and abuse such as overwork, unpaid wages, restrictions on freedom of movement, sexual harassment, psychological abuse and violence.

A change to UK immigration rules in April 2012 made “the most disadvantageous labour migration status that exists” even more so. Now, migrant domestic workers entering the UK are tied to a single employer and can only work for a maximum of six months.

Kate Roberts, head of policy at the UK migrant domestic workers advocacy group Kalayaan, is one of the most vocal critics of the tied visa. “The UK’s immigration policy confines domestic workers to the status of chattel. They have no real rights for themselves. They are additional baggage who are only allowed in the UK for the benefit of another, more desirable category of worker”.

Photo: Justice for Domestic Workers/FACEBOOK

Source: Tamara Gausi/Equal Times

Story Type: News

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