The Kettering branch of the Co-operative Party is celebrating the adoption of a resolution by the local council to address the issue of modern slavery, after campaigning to raise awareness on the issue.
Members of the local party council held a street stall in Kettering, handing out fliers reminding people of the area’s abolitionist past and asking them to sign a petition asking the council to sign up to the Co-operative Party Charter on Modern Slavery. A total of 88 people signed up to the petition in two hours.
The town’s place in the history of the fight against slavery comes from missionaries William Knibb and John Smith, who were prominent abolitionists in the 19th century.
Co-op Party member Peter Weston spoke at the full council meeting where the resolution was on the agenda. In a post on the Co-op Party’s website, he said that, although the resolution did not meet all of the Co-operative Party Charter points, it fulfilled the most important ones.
In March, Labour and Co-operative Party councillors signed a charter committing the authority to root out exploitation across its supply chain.
Councils adhering to the Co-op Party’s Charter Against Modern Slavery commit to 10 measures. These include requiring contractors to comply fully with the Modern Slavery Act and challenge abnormally low-cost tenders to ensure they do not rely on potential contractor practising modern slavery. Councils are also expected to report publicly on the implementation of the policy on an annual basis.
“I judged that this would be the best way to get a commitment from the council to take action against modern day slavery,” wrote Mr Weston.
Co-ops have been at the forefront of the campaign to tackle modern slavery, with the Co-op Group launching a scheme that enables victims of modern slavery to secure employment at its food stores.
Similarly, on 16 July Conservative-led Cherwell District Council adopted the Co-operative Party Charter Against Modern Slavery.
Writing for the Co-op Party’s blog, Cllr Sean Woodcock, a Labour member on Cherwell Council, said: “We were prepared to be flexible, but we didn’t want to see the charter’s main points diluted.
“We accepted two amendments. The first acknowledged the issue of support for victims without explicitly calling for government to extend the support offered, whilst the other included a line which I think has been missed in much of the discussion about modern slavery.
“The second introduced a line recognising forced marriage as a form of modern slavery and committing to work with local police in tackling it. Given that this amendment clearly sought to strengthen, not dilute the motion, I accepted this very happily.”
So far, 24 local authorities covering more than five million people have implemented the Co-op Party’s charter.
The party is also organising a ‘Month of Action’ on Modern Slavery, which will run from 13 September to 18 October. The month will include further councils signing the Charter and activity by members across the country.