Tag Archives: modern slavery act

Business & Human Rights: The Days of Toothless Laws Are Coming to an End

When the UK Modern Slavery Act was introduced in 2015 and its Australian counterpart followed three years later, these pieces of legislation were heralded as ground-breaking.

Both Acts require entities that meet the annual revenue threshold to report on the risks of modern slavery in their operations and supply chains, what actions they have taken to address those risks, and what the outcomes of those efforts have been.

Crucially, the Modern Slavery Act in each country lacks hard sanctions for non-compliance and solely relies on stakeholder scrutiny and market forces for enforcement.

The UK Home Office states that “failure to comply […] may damage the reputation of the business. It will be for consumers, investors and Non-Governmental Organisations to engage and/or apply pressure where they believe a business has not taken sufficient steps”.

In Australia, Home Affairs states that non-compliance can “damage your entity’s reputation, undermine your ability to do business with other entities and damage investor confidence.”

While Australian entities are yet to report, reporting in the UK has been underwhelming. In 2017, 43 per cent of companies on the London Stock Exchange did not produce a report, nor did 42 per cent of the top 100 companies that were awarded government contracts.

It appears that many businesses in the UK had no fear of a consumer backlash for being non-compliant with the Act, even if that consumer was the government itself.

The vague threat of reputational risk thus seems insufficient to prompt action. This is corroborated by the UN Special Rapporteur on Contemporary Forms of Slavery, who commented that  “soft law’ frameworks have […] had a limited effect in ensuring corporate and state accountability”.

Continue reading Business & Human Rights: The Days of Toothless Laws Are Coming to an End

Call for Papers: Modern Slavery and the Employment Relationship

Following the United Kingdom in 2015, Australia introduced its Modern Slavery Act in 2018. The Government produced guidance documents to recognise that modern slavery sits on a continuum of exploitation and should not be addressed in isolation. It acknowledges that there is a spectrum of abuse and that it is not always clear at what point poor working practices and lack of health and safety awareness seep into instances of human trafficking, slavery or forced labour. The overarching aim of this special issue is to examine how exactly employment relationships can deteriorate into forms of labour exploitation and modern slavery. We set out to identify the key factors contributing to this process, to determine what approaches can reduce the risk of labour abuses occurring, and to discern novel ways to remediate exploitation once identified. We aim to create a better understanding of modern slavery and the employment relationship by establishing how and why workers may move along the continuum of labour exploitation.

Timeline:

  • 25/09/2020 – Submission of abstracts to the guest editors
  • 12/10/2020 – Confirmation/acceptance of abstract and invitation to submit full paper
  • 31/01/ 2021 – Full paper submission for presentation at Symposium
  • 02/2021 – Symposium in Sydney – alternatively a virtual symposium will be held
  • 01/03/2021 – Full original papers to be submitted online to the JIR for peer review
  • 28/10/2021 – Accepted papers to be finalised/submitted online to the JIR

 

Modern Slavery Special Issue

Coronavirus Hits Precarious Workers in Supply Chains Hardest

Computer chip and circuit board factory, Jiangxi, China. Shutterstock

The COVID-19 coronavirus is officially a pandemic, the US and Australian share markets have collapsed, both governments have unveiled stimulus packages, and Australia’s trade union movement is worried about the position of casuals. But things are worse overseas, including for the workers who make products for Australians.

20,000 garment workers in Cambodia face job losses from factory closures because of shortages of raw materials from China and reduced orders from buyers in the virus-affected locations including the United States and Europe. Thousands have already lost their jobs in Myanmar. Garment workers in Sri Lanka and Bangladesh are uncertain of their futures.

Continue reading Coronavirus Hits Precarious Workers in Supply Chains Hardest

Submission to National Action Plan to Combat Modern Slavery 2020-24

The Australian Government is developing a National Action Plan to Combat Modern Slavery 2020‑24, which builds on Australia’s current efforts under the National Action Plan to Combat Human Trafficking and Slavery 2015-2019. The Government published a Consultation Paper and provided the business community, civil society and academia to help co-design a 2020-24 Plan that will drive Australia’s efforts to combat modern slavery over the next five years. The submission by Justine Nolan and myself can be found below.

Our key recommendations:

  1. The Government should bolster the Modern Slavery Act by introducing sanctions for non-compliance, mandate and provide guidance on human rights due diligence and by creating the post of National Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner;
  2. The Government should “name and shame” entities that do not comply with the Modern Slavery Act, as well as entities that are found to have modern slavery in their supply chain;
  3. The Government should update its procurement policies to follow international best-practice, and provide additional training to procurement officers;
  4. The Government should leverage the impact of public spending by creating a procurement connected policy concerning modern slavery;
  5. The Government should prepare for an increase in modern slavery survivors being referred to authorities by creating adequate support structures based on international best practice;
  6. The Government should include two additional goals which focus on the nexus between climate change and gender with modern slavery.
  7. The Government should facilitate the creation of decent jobs, address wage theft, remove barriers for organised labour, and increase resources for the Fair Work Ombudsman;
  8. The Government should create an anti-slavery helpline and geographically plot calls to reveal hotspots across Australia.

Martijn Boersma and Justine Nolan - Submission National Action Plan

Submission to the Inquiry into the NSW Modern Slavery Act 2018

The Standing Committee on Social Issues is inquiring into and reporting on the Modern Slavery Act 2018 (NSW) (the NSW Act), the consultation draft of the Modern Slavery Bill 2019 (the amendment Bill), and the consultation draft of the Modern Slavery Regulation 2019 (NSW) (the Regulation), with particular reference to:

  • (a) the operability of the proposed anti-slavery scheme
  • (b) the effect of the anti-slavery scheme on business, including the supply chain reporting obligations under section 24 of the NSW Act
  • (c) the intended application of the anti-slavery scheme with respect to charities and not-forprofit organisations, State Owned Corporations and local councils
  • (d) the appropriateness and enforceability of Modern Slavery Risk Orders under section 29 of the NSW Act
  • (e) the unintended consequences of drafting issues with the NSW Act, including with respect to the Human Tissue Act 1983 (NSW) and the sale and supply of human tissue
  • (f) the risk of a possible constitutional challenge to current provisions in the NSW Act due to inconsistencies with the Criminal Code Act 1995 (Cth)
  • (g) whether the passage of the Modern Slavery Act 2018 (Cth) renders parts or all of the NSW Act unnecessary, or requiring of amendment to address inconsistencies or gaps
  • (h) the preferred course of action to address the matters identified
  • (i) any other related matter.

Below is the submission made by Justine Nolan and Martijn Boersma.

Submission to NSW MSA 2019 NOLAN BOERSMA Oct 4 2019