With the Home Office estimating that up to 13,000 people may be held in slavery in the UK, it’s never been more important to get messages about hidden labour exploitation and the help that is available directly to the people and communities who are most likely to be affected. Stronger Together has put together an awareness training session aimed specifically at the most vulnerable workers. The new training was piloted in Lincolnshire in February this year, with great effect.
Stronger Together teamed up with JO Sims, the UK’s largest supplier of fresh cherry and cranberry, to develop a workshop aimed entirely at migrant workers. The purpose of the workshop was to inform workers about modern slavery and arm them with information on what they could do to help anyone in their community who was being exploited.
JO Sims Limited, based in Spalding, Lincolnshire, has been growing, importing and processing fruit since 1896, and is one of the UK’s leading suppliers of fruit for the fresh, processed and ingredient market sectors.
The organisation was a superb choice for piloting the new workshops as, despite the scale and breadth of their work, the core staff team at JO Sims sits at just 85, with a reliance on seasonal staff to sort and pack the fruit going through the Spalding site. During the peak Christmas and summer season, up to 150 agency workers of varying nationalities are at the centre of JO Sims’ fruit production processes.
The welfare of all workers on site is a priority for the company, which see the same seasonal workers return season after season, and has put into place measures to ensure all the agency workers are treated in the same way as their permanent employees. Having attended some training sessions run by Stronger Together, Gwen Marshall, HR Manager at JO Sims, felt it was important to give workers the opportunity to take part in the education process about modern day slavery, and where to get help for those affected. Gwen hoped that the JO Sims workers might then be able to help other migrant workers living locally to understand that if they are in this bad situation, there is a way out and people willing to help.
Frank Hanson, a specialist Stronger Together trainer, lead two training sessions, for around 60 workers. Each worker was given literature in their own language, and translators for the different languages were also present. Whilst Frank spoke about modern slavery and the exploitation of workers, it was the video that he showed that had the greatest effect. The video tells Daniel and Weronika’s stories about how they were unwittingly trapped into exploitation and those in the audience were visibly moved by it.
Gwen says: “There were some people with tears in their eyes while they watched the video. We know that some of our workers were, when they first came to Britain, subjected to worker exploitation themselves and are most likely to identify with people who are in this situation. We hope that by involving them and supplying them with as much information as we can they will be able to help those that need it.”
Following the pilot, Stronger Together is now offering this Worker Awareness training to other businesses. For more information, please email [email protected] or call 01276 919090.
The video used in the training session is available on the Stronger Together website, and also on You Tube. To see it, visit https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RVcTORaHvig.