The Apparel and General Merchandise Public and Private Protocol commits signatories to work together to eradicate slavery and exploitation in textile supply chains. The retailers have pledged to raise awareness to prevent worker exploitation, protect vulnerable and exploited workers, disrupt exploitative practices and help bring criminals to justice.
Enforcement bodies including the Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority (GLAA), Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), Employment Agency Standards inspectorate, Health and Safety Executive (HSE), HMRC, Immigration Enforcement and the Insolvency Service have also signed the document, which is supported by the British Retail Consortium (BRC), UK Fashion and Textile Association, and auditing system Fast Forward.
The document aims to send the message that the textiles sector will discourage labour abuse and take action when it does happen. The sector has been described as a “high risk industry” for labour exploitation and the GLAA believes this partnership will bolster efforts to eliminate it from supply chains.
The announcement follows the latest meeting of the Modern Slavery Taskforce, created by prime minister Theresa May, which on Monday 12 November met to discuss how to better identify and tackle forced labour in business supply chains.
May said: “I welcome the action being taken by businesses which are leading the way in being open and transparent about the modern slavery risks they face, and have pledged to raise awareness to prevent slavery, protect vulnerable workers and help bring more criminals to justice.”
Peter Andrews of BRC added: “This is an important step in our collaborative efforts to end the ill treatment of any workers suffering under exploitative employers in UK fashion and textile factories. The responsible businesses signing up to this Protocol demonstrate that relationships with suppliers have to be based on decent working practices.
“Joint efforts by industry and government are essential if we are to truly eradicate these abhorrent practices.”