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How many slaves do YOU have?

This was the intentionally-provocative question that Novus Rotary guest speaker Phil Jesson posed at the start of his talk on Modern Slavery.

Phil said he retired as a management consultant two years ago and decided in his retirement to volunteer with hospital radio and with Bristol-based charity Unseen, which is working to eradicate modern-day slavery.

Phil revealed that 73 of the top 100 FTSE companies have been found to be not complying with the law, one element of which requires every UK company with a turnover of £36 million to have a Modern Day Slavery statement on its website.

Modern Day Slavery, said Phil, involves

  • Labour Exploitation
  • Domestic Servitude
  • Sexual Exploitation
  • Criminal Exploitation

Phil said victims of modern day slavery often suffer

  • Poverty
  • Poor mental health
  • Homelessness
  • Warfare

Phil admitted to having been shocked when he took part in an online 10-minute questionnaire which revealed that he had 68 modern day slaves in his personal supply chain. He said this was a real “Wow!” moment and he invites everyone to visit to find out how their life can, unknowingly, contribute to the misery of lives lived in slavery.

Since doing that, Phil has drastically reduced the number of slaves contributing to his personal footprint. Novus members were surprised to hear that most slaves in the UK come not from China, Africa, Syria or Albania but from the UK itself.

He urged his audience to look out for signs that things are not quite right. He mentioned that he had visited a car-wash centre and become suspicious that the management stepped in when he spoke to employees about their work. He investigated further and reported to police that 12 men were sleeping in a shed on site. The men were freed and the gang masters prosecuted.

If you want to report something suspicious, you can do so by following the advice from this slide Phil showed…

Phil has stopped eating chocolate made by Nestlé because they exploit workers in the Ivory Coast.
Nestlé, Mars and others signed an agreement in 2001 to stop using slaves by 2005. They got a postponement in 2008, 2016 and 2020 and still the abuse goes on, he said.

During the course of his 45-minute Zoom talk, Phil named dozens of well-known companies who appear at the wrong end of a ‘slavery table’ published regularly in the Ethical Consumer Magazine

Last edited: 22:10 on Thursday, June 10, 2021