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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.


  • 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




Review of “Addressing Modern Slavery” in Journal of Industrial Relations

Modern slavery has gained attention in scholarship, legislation and media in recent years – and rightly so. As Nolan and Boersma discuss, the term ‘modern slavery’ is not unproblematic but is now commonly used to refer to several practices, including forced labour, bonded labour, trafficking, child slavery and forced marriage (pp. 7–8). The book is extremely timely and of particular interest in Australia since the introduction of the Modern Slavery Act (Cth) 2018. This Act requires large businesses and the Commonwealth government to report on risks of modern slavery in their operations and supply chains (including overseas) and steps they are taking to address them. The first reports under the Act are due in 2020.

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Melbourne Asia Review on Addressing Modern Slavery

Addressing Modern Slavery provides important insights into the complexities that perpetuate slavery in a contemporary context, long after it was officially abolished. This book confronts the dark side of development that comes with intractable, complex, multi-tiered global supply chains. In particular, it highlights that global supply chains not only link us to modern slavery, but frequently generate the preconditions necessary for modern slavery to flourish in industries such as agriculture, manufacturing and mining, which account for the majority of slaves in the world. Governments can also be complicit: while modern slavery can be connected to companies and consumers through supply chains, there are also governments that actively promote and benefit from slave labour.

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The reasoning behind conscious consumption

The Twitterverse was recently asked “Morally, is it worse to get something from Amazon, or Harvey Norman?”

The question solicited many responses: some described the character of the CEOs, others mentioned the wages and taxes paid (or not paid) by each company, while yet other Twitter users cited the labour conditions experienced by workers at these companies.

These factors may or may not influence whether you buy from Harvey Norman or Amazon, but they aren’t issues that help to answer the moral question. As a matter of fact, the question whether to buy from Harvey Norman or Amazon arguably isn’t a moral one at all.

Don’t get me wrong, I think it is important that people ask themselves questions such as these, but this specific question is a not a moral one: rather, it is an ethical question, the answer to which is informed by your values.

At the risk of sounding pedantic, let me explain.

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New Paper: Blockchain and Modern Slavery

While blockchain was designed as a ledger for cryptocurrency transactions, it can record transactions of anything of value. Blockchain is increasingly used to prove the integrity of commodities, tracing their supply chain journey from the source to the end user. Yet, transferring this technology from a cryptocurrency context to a supply chain setting is not without difficulties. This article explores the implications for multinational and transnational companies in using blockchain as a means to address modern slavery. The paper identifies five challenges: verification, inclusion, trust, privacy, and normativity.

The paper was published in AIB Insights. A PDF version of the paper is also available.
Boersma, M., & Nolan, J. 2020. Can Blockchain Help Resolve Modern Slavery in Supply Chains? AIB Insights.

‘Bullying’ clothing companies are asking struggling suppliers for discounts

Prominent Australian retailers been caught out again for “unsavoury” behaviour during the coronavirus pandemic – including asking for discounts and pushing back orders from struggling suppliers overseas.

Kmart has backflipped on its request for a 30 per cent discount it forced on its Bangladeshi suppliers, but is still enforcing tight turnarounds.

Mosaic Brands, which owns Crossroads, Millers, Noni B and more, has told its suppliers, also in Bangladesh, that it won’t be meeting some of its payments for eight months, according to the ABC.

Mosaic was called out early in the pandemic for its pushy sales techniques, peddling hand sanitiser and face masks to shoppers to capitalise on the panic-buying surge.

The behaviour is nothing short of bullying, business ethics expert Martijn Boersma said.

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Addressing Modern Slavery at Adelaide Writers’ Week

“Does our globalised economy rely on the exploitation of the vulnerable? Are we, as consumers, an intrinsic part of chains of supply and complicity that keep 40 million people enslaved? Justine Nolan and Martijn Boersma wrote Addressing Modern Slavery to define and dissect a phenomenon we think of as remote but is more prevalent than at any time in human history. Based on years of forensic research, this impressive book is mandatory reading for anyone committed to ending exploitation and the scourge of modern slavery.”

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.

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Cotton Value Chain – Labour Risk Heat Maps

The Queensland University of Technology and the University of Technology Sydney have been funded by the Cotton Research and Development Corporation to research “Strategies for improving labour conditions within the Australian cotton value chain”  (2019-2022).

Non-Government Organisations are active in pressuring fashion brands to be accountable for their social and environmental claims. Labour is currently in the spotlight. Over 20 million employees in garment manufacturing in Asia Pacific are paid below the minimum wage. ILO ratification in Australia’s export countries is low and non-compliance high (up to 90%). This project will provide information to enable the cotton industry to understand labour issues along its value chain and recommend strategies for the industry to explore.

Phase 1 produced a heat map, based on secondary data, which provides an overview of labour issues affecting the textile and apparel industry in primary export destinations in the Australian cotton value chain. Click on the image below to see the full interactive heat maps which were created using Tableau.

Labour Risk Heat Maps

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The Sopranos “Easter Eggs” to look out for in “The Many Saints of Newark”

Soon the much anticipated The Sopranos prequel movie “The Many Saints of Newark” will have its premiere. Like many I have watched The Sopranos several times over the years, and there are many references in the show to things of the past. David Chase will likely have put a few Easter Eggs in the movie as a treat. The movie plays out in the 1960s and 1970s, with the 1967 Newark riots playing an important role, so events outside of that bracket (like Tony making his bones by killing the bookie Willy Overall on Labor Day 1982) won’t be in there.

Here are a few possible easter egg candidates:

  1. The stick up of Feech LaManna’s card game by Tony’s crew that meant that Tony et al were up and coming and had to be respected;
  2. After losing a fight to Bobby Baccala, Tony tells Carmella that she swooned when Tony “took out” Domenic Tedesco while they were both in high school;
  3. Does Christopher Moltisanti’s dad Dicky Moltisanti carry a cot or a TV tray when he is shot and killed? Is the retired cop that Chrissy kills in the show actually Dicky’s killer?
  4. Will Fran Felstein, the lady from Bambergers and Johnny Boy Soprano’s comare (goomar) make an appearance? Apparently Uncle June was quite obsessed with her.
  5. Johnny Boy co-owned a racetrack with Phil Leotardi and Hesh Rabkin, Tony’s dad had promised Fran a share of the racetrack, but Phil and Hesh cheated her out of it.
  6. Johnny Boy was with his mistress on the night Livia was hospitalised for a miscarriage. At the hospital Tony lies to Livia that he and his father were at a baseball game;
  7. Johnny Boy Soprano had the option to move to Reno, Nevada to manage a supper club for Rocco Alatore. Livia vetoed the move while Alatore became a millionaire;
  8. That time that Johnny Boy Soprano shot a bullet through Livia’s beehive hairdo; 
  9. While getting a coke and a slice Christopher tells a story about a “wise guy” friend making out with, unbeknownst to them, a transgender person. Will we find out who?
  10. Paulie tells the guys that the only time he did drugs was when someone spiked his drink at the Copa, after that Uncle Junior had laser beams shooting out of his eyes;
  11. Will there be reference to Paulie Walnuts winning the chin-up cup three times in a row while he was in the army, and that he modelled for a boxing poster?
  12. Do we find out who Paulie’s dad is, after his Nucci turned out to be his aunt rather than his mum, and his aunt turned out to be his mother. Fan theory: Russ Fergoli.
  13. Davey Scantino, who got into a gambling debt and was subjected to a bust out of his outdoor goods store, joined Tony’s high school as a army brat from Baden Baden;
  14. The Jackeèèèt: do we see the toughest guy in essex country (Rocco DiMeo) involuntarily part with his leather jacket, as regaled many times by Richie Aprile;
  15. Tony’s high school football coach said that Tony’s got what is needed to lead men on the field – but that he predicted that Tony would chose the easy way;
  16. Uncle June famously makes reference to Tony “not having the makings of a Varsity Athlete“, and Jonny Boy Soprano apparently said to Tony he’s got small hands;
  17. According to Tony, Janice Soprano frequently dropped acid and blew roadies- in earlier years she did the latter under the boardwalk in Atlantic City;
  18. The start of the executive game: Johnny Boy Soprano set this up to bleed high-rollers like the credit card companies do with high interest rater to people in debt;
  19. Satriale’s becomes the social club of the Sopranos after old man Satriale kills himself because of his gambling debt, after first getting his pinky cut off;
  20. Ercoli a.k.a. Eckley was the mentally challenged brother of Johnny Boy and Uncle Junior, he spent most of his life in an institution – will we see him in the movie?