Slavery was abolished in the 19th century, wasn’t it?
From wage-slavery to human-trafficking, modern day forms of slavery have many faces, all in the interests of some people making a profit out of the hardship of others. These various faces of modern day slavery range in severity from harsh and unfair working conditions, to the most devastating forms of human degradation, abuse and oppression.
Today Al Jazeera reported on the impact on his family of the death of a striking South African miner. He was shot dead by police in August. He was working 1000 kilometres away from his meagre home because jobs are scarce. He travelled that distance to support his wife and children. 34 miners were shot by police when they were striking for more pay. Some strikers became more desperate, and the conflict escalated.
Some modern day slavery is in the form of legal work for greedy corporates. Other forms are the result of illegal practices spawned by the capitalist ethics of greed and profiteering. In the UK right now, there is a concern about the increase in human tafficking. In such cases, women are very often the victims of some of the nastiest forms of slavery in the guise of sex trafficking. Evidence of this is shown in Deborah Padfield’s article, which is a response to
“The Criminalisation of Migrant Women” by Liz Hales and Loraine Gelsthorpe of Cambridge University’s Institute of Criminology, a report on the experience of trafficked women convicted of crimes including entry into fake marriage, drug importation, cannabis production, street robbery and selling fake goods. As victims of crime, they experienced domestic servitude, rape and aggravated assault, threats and theft of documents, sex and/or labour exploitation and forced participation in crime.
And one of the worst results is that the profiteers organising the trafficking go unrecognised. The trafficked people become victims of a legal system stacked against them, and they are treated as criminals. Padfield reports,
One legal representative refuses to tell the court that his client was forced into sex work lest it prejudice the court against her; through his refusal, he implicitly accepts that such victimhood is treated as culpable. The judiciary appears to have a similarly inadequate understanding of guilt and innocence: “one woman…, when asked in court whether she pleaded guilty or not guilty, stated: ‘I want to explain to you why I did this.’ The response from the Bench was a sharp retort, ‘We are asking you whether you plead guilty or not guilty.’” Without an exploration of why?, that is an unanswerable question.
I haven’t seen any reports of New Zealand examples of the above devastatig levels of dealings in human misery. But we do have our own milder versions of modern day slavery. There was a recent report of the unfair treatment of immigrant nurses. Some are being forced to work for worse conditions and pay than those experienced by most other nurses.
The Sunday Star-Times revealed earlier this year that trafficking of Filipino nurses has been taking place.
Qualified nurses were being promised nursing work by recruitment agents, but were instead forced to sign into two-year aged care contracts for low pay.
In another case this year, a group of Indian nurses found themselves unable to gain registration in New Zealand after arriving here to study.
And how else can you describe the NAct government’s plan to cut youth wages, other than as wage-slavery. CTU spokesperson, James Sleep says,
“Youth rates are fundamentally unfair, but also flawed. They won’t bring down overall youth unemployment numbers, but switch some low paid, insecure jobs from one group of young workers earning the adult minimum wage, to the cheaper group of youth eligible to earn youth rates. At any one point there will be workers displaced, failing to address the bigger job shortage problem,” …
The above are some very different forms of modern day slavery, with varying degrees of impacts on the victims. They are all the result of the same underlying cause: human greed enshrined in contemporary capitalist ethics. You can probably think of other examples, and of different ways this unfair system impacts on the lives of ordinary people.