INSPIRATION – Making slavery a thing of the past

20 June 2017

Modern slavery is a global problem that undoubtedly happens in New Zealand. What do business leaders need to know?

In September 2016 Faroz Ali became the first person in New Zealand convicted of human trafficking. Ali was jailed for nine years and six months. He had lured Fijians into New Zealand to work illegally and without pay.

In March this year Ahmad Roji Turah left New Zealand six years after he claimed to have absconded from a ‘slave’ fishing vessel from Korea.

The 2016 Global Slavery Index estimates there may be as many as 800 people living in slavery in New Zealand. New Zealand’s Crimes Act 1961 includes provision for imprisonment of up to 14 years for those found guilty of slave dealing.

Kevin Hyland is the first of the UK’s Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioners created by the UK’s 2015 Modern Slavery Act. He was in New Zealand earlier this month for a roundtable discussion hosted by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment.

Hyland’s played a lead role in establishing anti-slavery targets in the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals. This states: “Take immediate and effective measures to eradicate forced labour, end modern slavery and human trafficking and secure the prohibition and elimination of the worst forms of child labour, including recruitment and use of child soldiers, and by 2025 end child labour in all its forms.”

The UK law’s effect on business is already important for large companies looking to trade in the UK. It provides a foretaste of how enhanced national and international regulation on this may develop. The law targets companies with a turnover in excess of £36 million (NZ$63 million) supplying the UK. They must now include steps to keep modern slavery out of their global supply chains in their annual reports. France and Canada have been developing similar legislation.

There are also moves for something similar in Australia. New Zealand’s and Australia’s links to Pacific Island nations and South East Asia give them an important role in improving global labour rights.

The International Labour Organisation believes almost 21 million people worldwide are victims of forced labor. It is estimated to be a $200 billion dollar industry. Forced sexual exploitation apart, the sectors most often implicated are agriculture, including fishing and forestry, construction, manufacturing, mining, utilities and domestic work.

Laurie Foon, SBN regional co-ordinator, went to the meeting.

“It was good to see representatives from many of these sectors in New Zealand there and taking this seriously,” she said. “But it’s shocking to know how widespread slavery still is. It’s beholden to all of us to keep a close eye on our supply chains to ensure we are not unwittingly investing in human misery.”