Graham Martin, chairman of the Exeter Anti-Slavery Group -
Fairtrade Fortnight is part of a global movement which, in a few decades, has grown from nothing into a multi-billion pound organisation.
It ensures that where the Fairtrade logo appears on packaging that the people who were involved in its production in its country of origin were paid a fair price – rather than nothing at all.
In Exeter and throughout Devon, and nationally, there are outlets from the large supermarkets to the humble corner shop, luxury hotels to small cafes and pubs which are offering a range of Fairtrade products. These are normally edibles such as fruit, vegetables, chocolate, honey, biscuits sugar and drinks such as tea, coffee, fruit juices, beer, and wines.
Now, you might ask about all the other things which we can routinely buy and that would include clothing, electrical goods, furnishings, hardware, kitchenware toys etc.
Anti-Slavery International, the world’s oldest established human rights organisation, has through research found that these items are often produced in countries where there can be forced labour – which is a modern day form of slavery. it is easy to assume that because in our country we get paid wages from working that his is universal throughout the world.
Sadly, even in our country, there are trafficked workers being found in foreign restaurants where the pay is minimal or non-existent. They can be beaten up, are subjected to excessive hours and with appalling conditions for accommodation.
Meat processing units and farms in the SOuth West have also been found to have trafficked workers (which is another form of slavery). It is also estimated that 85 per cent of workers the sex industry in the UK are also forced into it through slavery.
What a lot of our population in the UK do not realise is that out of a world population of around seven billion people, more than 2.3 billion (almost a third) are trying to survive on £1 a day or less!
In fact, in the North Indian state of Bihar (with a population of 100 million), 25 per cent of the people are on 25p a day or less. It was recently in a British newspaper that a mother from that part of the world had given a trafficker her seven-year-old son in return for a payment of just £11.
Given the glowing pictures that traffickers can conjure up, a lot of people get tricked and then it is too late. If you arrive in the UK (or other countries) without official documents that you are forced to do what you are told by your trafficker.
There are 29 countries in the world, where children and adults are forced to work for little or no money – without choice.
Human rights in a lot of countries do not exist or if they do it is only for the wealthy. In these 29 countries, 50 product groups have been identified and these can and often do appear on the shelves of our supermarkets, retail stores, clothing outlets, and electrical stores.
I am sure we are all aware of the “Made In China” level which appears on a vast array of manufactured goods including some premium brands. China is number two is terms of world economics (the US is still number one but likely to lose this status to China in 10-15 years’ time) and is also number two (Burma is number one with 14 product groups) in the list of product groups where forced labour is used with 11 (these are garments, footwear, cotton, decorations, electronics, artificial flowers, toys, fireworks, nails, bricks and coal – an industry in which it is thought that 50 miners each week are killed in accidents or disasters).
So what can individuals who want to know that the goods they are buying have not been created through slavery?
Anti-Slavery International is a members of the Ethical Trading Alliance. It is an alliance of companies, non-Governmental organisation and trade unions. Its goal is to ensure that the working conditions for those producing goods for the UK market meets or exceeds international labour standards.
Individuals can write a letter to the managing director (names can normally be obtained at the customer service desk in each store - and if you mark the letter ‘private and confidential’ this tends to work miracles) of shops and businesses that they use asking what measures the company is taking to identify, prevent and end the use of forced labour and slavery in the supply chain.
Ask at the same time if the company is a member of the Ethical Trading Alliance and, if not, why not.
Carpets and rugs have Rugmark, a certification scheme ensuring they are not made with illegal child labour. In India, children as young as three have been found involved in the manufacture of these items.
Anti-Slavery International, which the Exeter Anti-Slavery Group is a part of, will celebrate its 175th year in 2014.
If you would like more details on modern day slavery, or to become a member - or would like a world map showing the countries and product groups where forced labour is used as well as a fact sheet - please contact 01395 274485.
Together we can eradicate modern day slavery which is a scourge on 21st century mankind.