Become an everyday hero – stand against modern slavery

By Tod Cooper

TINZ Director
Procurement special interest area

Modern Slavery is a global issue that affects everyone of us. If each of us recognises it and takes a stance collectively we can and must make a difference.

Modern Slavery is a term concomitant with fraud, bribery, and corruption. Where there is widespread fraud, bribery, and corruption, there is unquestionably going to be modern slavery in one form or another.

What is Modern Slavery

Let us be clear on the definitions:

  • Corruption as defined by the Transparency International is “the abuse of     entrusted power for private gain”.    
  • Modern Slavery is defined by the Anti-slavery Organisation as the     severe exploitation of other people for personal or commercial gain.

In the United Kingdom the cost of modern slavery as been estimated at between £3.3bn and £4.3bn per year.

Ultimately ‘modern’ slavery is just an expression. There is nothing modern about it -  it is slavery plain and simple. Slavery is long associated with visible shackles, whereas modern slavery is all about the “invisible” shackles. Here are some somber numbers (courtesy

  • More than 40 million people are enslaved worldwide, one person is sold into slavery every 27 seconds. Of these:
    • 71% are female
    • 1 in 4 are children
    • 14.4 million are in forced marriage
    • 24.9 million are in forced labour! Of these 6 million people are exploited in the private sector including domestic work, construction, or agriculture.
  • Modern slavery is estimated to generate over US$150-billion in illegal profits per year.

There are many forms of modern slavery, the most common are listed below.

  • Forced labour
  • Human trafficking (including sex trafficking)
  • Debt bondage or bonded labour
  • Descent based slavery
  • Domestic servitude    
  • Child slavery
  • Forced and early marriage

New Zealand is no longer blazing the path    

Sadly, our Government has become a follower in the civil rights that we Kiwis hold dear.

At times we have been action orientated global leaders in civil, human, and environmental rights. For example in September 1893, we became the first self-governing country in the world in which women had the right to vote in parliamentary elections. More recently is the Homosexual Law Reform Act, passed in July 1986.

What about addressing Modern Slavery, one of the biggest issues of our time? While Britain and Australia have enacted modern slavery legislation, New Zealand has ‘finally’ developed and launched (in March 2021) a 42-page Plan of Action.

The Plan of Action is well thought out and includes a solid approach to combat modern forms of slavery, broken down into three key steps:

  1. Prevention by building awareness which is key to driving change.
  2. Protection in the form of actions and measures that deliver support services to victims (and whistleblowers); and finally.
  3. Enforcement by enhancing enforcement and prosecution.

A plan is simply a means for which to achieve an objective. It suggests we care, but it now needs to be followed with actions.

Individuals must take action

Going back to the late 19th century, the right for women to vote was not driven by Government. Rather it started with a movement, led by people like you and me; Kate Sheppard, Margaret Bullock, Meri Mangakāhia, Ākenehi Tōmoana, Anna Stout, Elizabeth Yates, Polly Plum, etc. These people who put plans into action and forced the Government to cross the line from caring into action.

What can you do?

Well, you can help to build awareness, a ground swell, a movement.  Watch this space for practical advice. Become aware of examples of best practice, so you can take necessary steps as an individual, or as a business, to identify, mitigate, and eradicate risks of modern slavery within your environment.

When the Government eventually introduces legislation, you will be able to easily evolve or adapt to meet any legislative requirements.

Identifying Modern Slavery

People in modern slavery do not have shackles. They might appear ordinary but rest assured they are in New Zealand, and they need our help.

There is just one conviction for human trafficking in New Zealand, but many allegations of migrant exploitation and sexploitation.

The conviction of Joseph Auga Matamata revealed some classic indicators of  warning signs for spotting victims of modern slavery.  For more information on these you can visit the Modern Slavery Helpline. Signs include:

  • Physical Appearance.     
  • Isolation.     
  • Poor Living Conditions. 
  • Restricted Freedom of Movement.     
  • Unusual Travel Times.
  • Reluctance to Seek Help. 

From a business perspective also consider

  • If it is too good to be true, it probably is!
  • Rapid response times that are far beyond the norm
  • Anomalies in employee information such as workforce credentials/CV’s etc
  • Rapid change in personnel

What to do if  you spot the signs? While there are a number of advocacy groups, in the first instance anyone with concerns about human trafficking or exploitation in New Zealand should contact Immigration New Zealand or the Labour Inspectorate on 0800 209 020. Do not confront the situation as you may only make things worse for the individual.

Finally, take some time to watch the TEDx talk ‘Where were you’ from Matt Friedman. Matt is an American human rights advocate with an expertise in human trafficking and modern slavery. He talks about the difference between caring (developing a plan of action) and change (actioning that plan).

Become an “everyday hero” because our team of 5 million can and should be able to make a difference.

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