Category Archives: Uncategorized

Strategies for Improving Labour Conditions within the Australian Cotton Value Chain

The Cotton Research and Development Corporation (CRDC) commissioned research to better understand labour issues along the Australian cotton value chain and to recommend strategies for the industry to explore.

Labour conditions for workers in textile and garment value chains remains an area of continuous concern. While Australian cotton enjoys a reputation as a clean, green crop grown under decent working conditions, once the cotton enters global value chains, all visibility is lost, and sustainable value is diminished. Actors throughout the chain, from brands and retailers to manufacturers, to non-governmental organisations, are working tirelessly to address working conditions in a boundary-less system with fragmented governance. Can fibre producers also play a role?

This animation provides an overview the seven solution approaches that were developed as part of a collaborative project between the Queensland University of Technology, the University of Technology Sydney, and the University of Notre Dame Australia.

The project team members: Alice Payne, Erin O’Brien, Rowena Maguire and Justine Coneybeer (Queensland University of Technology), Timo Rissanen and Karina Kallio (University of Technology Sydney), Martijn Boersma (University of Notre Dame Australia).

The various outputs developed as part of the project can be found here.

What can Australian Cotton Farmers do to Protect Garment Workers?

Ten years ago, the garment industry’s worst industrial accident – the Rana Plaza collapse in Dhaka, Bangladesh – killed more than 1,100 workers and highlighted the travesty of conditions for millions of garment workers globally.

It spurred action to address exploitation, but for many workers little has changed.

Just in the past few months, Britain’s Tesco supermarket chain has been accused of profiting from the “effective forced labour” of workers in Thailand (making Tesco-brand jeans), while the world’s biggest clothing retailer, China’s fast-fashion brand Shein, has been exposed for rampant human rights abuses.

Such incidents are meant to have been eliminated, as big brands are supposed to leverage their power to effect change in global supply chains. Australia’s Modern Slavery Act, for example, requires companies with more than A$100 million in annual revenue to publicly report on their efforts to ensure their supply chains are free of labour exploitation.

The expectation has been that pressure from consumers and investors will be enough for retailers (who profit the most from driving down production costs) to drive change. Campaigners for better conditions say these requirements are all too often a “fig leaf”, because audits can easily be fudged.

Limited attention has been given to what suppliers can do to ensure their products aren’t associated with exploitation.

Continue reading What can Australian Cotton Farmers do to Protect Garment Workers?

From Local to Global: Best Practice in Fighting Modern Slavery

If people are serious about ending modern-day slavery, consumers need to be prepared to pay more and companies must be prepared for a drop in profits, while governments must pass unpopular legislation, a professor of law at the Catholic University of America has warned.

Professor Mary Graw Leary is a founding director of the Bakhita Initiative for the study and disruption of modern-day slavery.

In her address to The Tablet webinar, “From local to global: best practice in fighting modern slavery and human trafficking”, sponsored by the University of Notre Dame Australia, she acknowledged that “great strides” have been made in fighting modern slavery and human trafficking in a fairly short period of time.

Continue reading From Local to Global: Best Practice in Fighting Modern Slavery

Modern Slavery and Renewable Energy

Australia should approach its renewable energy transition with caution, experts say, amid concerns of labour exploitation in the production of solar panels.

Polysilicon is the most common material used to produce solar panels, and around 45 per cent of the world’s supply comes from Xinjiang, China.

The United Nations says China may be committing crimes against humanity in Xinjiang, with experts accusing the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) of exploiting its Uyghur Muslim minority into forced labour to make products including solar panels.

China strongly denies allegations of human rights abuses against its Uyghur Muslim population.

Continue reading Modern Slavery and Renewable Energy

Leaning towards the Light: A Christmas Reflection on Modern Slavery

An outdoor symposium on modern slavery was held in Perth on 10 December 2023, moderated by Fiona McGaughey, Associate Professor, University of Western Australia.

Panel member(s) from left to right:

  • Dcn Greg Lowe, Director, The West Australian Catholic Migrant & Refugee Office
  • Jenny Stanger, Executive Manager, Australian Catholic Anti-Slavery Network
  • Shaeron Yapp, Principal Advisor of Human Rights, Rio Tinto
  • Martijn Boersma, Associate Professor, University of Notre Dame Australia

Continue reading Leaning towards the Light: A Christmas Reflection on Modern Slavery

Broken Promises: business failure on modern slavery

A new report, Broken Promises: Two years of corporate reporting under Australia’s Modern Slavery Act, examines the second year of corporate statements submitted to the Government’s Modern Slavery Register by 92 companies sourcing from four sectors with known risks of modern slavery: garments from China, rubber gloves from Malaysia, seafood from Thailand and fresh produce from Australia.

It finds that:

  • 66% of companies reviewed (down from 77% in the first year) are still failing to comply with the basic reporting requirements mandated by the legislation, with some companies not submitting reports at all;
  • Over half (56%) of the commitments made by companies in the first year of reporting to improve their modern slavery response remained unfulfilled based on their second year statements;
  • 43% of companies reviewed (down from 52% in the first year) are still failing to identify obvious modern slavery risks in their supply chains;
  • There is a mere 6% increase in the number of companies appearing to be taking some form of effective action to address modern slavery risks, with two in three companies still failing to act.

Seafood, rubber gloves, oranges: tainted by modern slavery?

If your clothes are made in China, rubber gloves from Malaysia and seafood sourced from Thailand, researchers are warning you may be at risk of supporting modern slavery practices.

Those were identified as the sectors with the highest risk of modern slavery in a new report, produced by a coalition of human rights organisations and academics.

And despite previous warnings of the risks to Australian companies sourcing these products, little has changed to improve the risks.

Continue reading Seafood, rubber gloves, oranges: tainted by modern slavery?

Muslim countries vote down UN Human Rights Council Xinjiang debate

Uyghur Australians have condemned Muslim-majority member countries of the United Nations Human Rights Council for voting down a debate on allegations of human rights abuses against minorities, including Muslims and Uyghurs in Xinjiang, China.

Among the 19 members who voted against the debate were Pakistan, Indonesia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Qatar, Kazakhstan, and Uzbekistan.

Australian resident and exiled Uyghur, Arslan Hidayat, described it as another “stab in the back” — singling out the votes from Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, both Turkic countries with historical connections to the Uyghur community.

Continue reading Muslim countries vote down UN Human Rights Council Xinjiang debate

Using Market Devices to Address Labour Abuses

This study examines how the risk of labour standards noncompliance can be rendered calculable and commensurable through a market device. We present a case study of the Cleaning Accountability Framework (CAF), an industry certification scheme, which seeks to address labour exploitation in the Australian contract cleaning industry. We pay particular attention to the central device of the certification scheme – the pricing schedule. We examine how the pricing schedule shaped the calculative space informing contracting parties during the procurement process. In doing so, the pricing schedule increased transparency around the potential risk of labour standards noncompliance. The nature of this transparency and the perceived objectivity of the pricing schedule acted to reshape the market for contract cleaning, resulting in a redistribution of accountability for labour exploitation. We also examine how the pricing schedule formed part of a wider framework of accountability, and how these mechanisms enabled strategic co-enforcement of labour standards compliance by supply chain stakeholders. Overall, our study indicates the potential for accounting practices to play a more active role in shaping how markets address modern slavery risks.