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.
The COVID-19 pandemic disruption has had a significant impact on the textile and apparel value chain, particularly on garment workers in the Global South. The disruption caused by the pandemic has raised questions about global justice and responsibility for these workers. This briefing paper investigates how the Australian cotton industry can influence working conditions along the textile and apparel value chain, and provides a detailed summary of the context surrounding the impact of COVID-19 on the textile and apparel value chain.
The pandemic had a calamitous effect on the lives of garment workers in the Global South. Women make up 80% of the labor force in the textile and apparel value chain, meaning that they have been disproportionately affected by COVID-19 in the sector. Migrant workers are important to the global textile labor force, and the exploitation of migrant workers has been an ongoing concern. The effects of COVID-19 are ongoing, and many countries are experiencing surges, different variants, and returns to lockdown, putting garment workers economically, socially, and medically at risk.
Global activism campaigns have sought to mobilise support and ignite corporate accountability. The #PayUp campaign, for example, urged consumers to hold brands accountable for paying their workers despite canceling orders. Large corporations canceling their orders had a dramatic effect on household income, leading to an increase in malnutrition and homelessness. The loss of jobs in apparel manufacturing was caused by several factors and continues to have a ripple effect on the longer-term economic security of workers.
As well as responding to the events of the pandemic, many actors are ‘future proofing’ their supply chains. The disrupted access to materials and political tensions will give some countries a notable advantage for export competitiveness. The global push for some textile industries in the Global North to ‘re-shore’ production has become a topical issue in recent policy debates. Responses to the problems faced by garment workers have focused on potential points of leverage at the endpoint of the value chain. Overall, the supply chain disruptions of the pandemic spotlight the need for stakeholders to work collaboratively to protect worker well-being.
For three years, Sadam Abdusalam watched his newborn grow into a toddler through the screen of a mobile phone. He was thousands of kilometres away in Australia, and his son Lufti and his wife Nadila were stuck in China’s Xinjiang province, unable to leave.
A Uyghur originally from Xinjiang, Mr Abdusalam was separated from his family for three years after the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) seized Nadila’s passport in 2017. He said the CCP began taking “as many” Uyghurs’ passports as they could in that year.
This briefing session brings together academic experts in the fields of modern slavery, labour law compliance, supply chain due diligence and temporary migrant workers, to share insights and advice on how universities can demonstrate leadership in promoting good labour practices. The aim of this briefing is to assist relevant stakeholders in the higher education sector to understand their role in promoting good labour practices, and provide guidance on practically how to do this. This briefing is aimed at professionals working in university procurement and contract management, university modern slavery working groups, university risk and compliance, cleaning and security contractors that currently hold contracts at university campuses.
It might be easy to imagine, especially in Australia, that slavery is a thing of the past. But an estimated 15,000 people were living in conditions of modern slavery here in 2016, through forced marriage and labour, sexual exploitation, debt bondage and human trafficking – exploitation that disproportionately affects women, children, asylum seekers and migrants. Globally, in that same year, 40.3 million victims were being abused.
Martijn Boersma is an associate professor of human trafficking and modern slavery at the University of Notre Dame Australia, where a new course aims to provide the skills and knowledge that will enable people to work proactively to put an end to the exploitation of vulnerable people.
Climate change has made millions vulnerable to modern slavery. Displacement and migration because of climate change creates a nexus of harm that pushes people to accept work that actively contributes to environmental destruction of forests, fisheries, waterways and land. Weak regulation and enforcement, corruption, a lack of political will and the lure of profits combined with vulnerability of people creates a vicious circle of opportunity for forced labour, child labour, debt bondage and slavery. In this webinar, speakers explored how an integrated approach to addressing modern slavery, climate change and environmental destruction can lead to impactful interventions by governments, communities, workers and business.
Hosted by: Jenny Stanger, Anti-slavery Taskforce, Catholic Archdiocese of Sydney
Modern slavery and worker exploitation are severe types of exploitation that can be found both internationally and in New Zealand. To address these behaviours, significant collaboration between government agencies as well as civil society, corporations, trade unions, academics, and international partners is needed.
The New Zealand Government sought feedback on a new law aimed at addressing modern slavery and worker exploitation in New Zealand and around the world. The law would introduce new obligations for organisations with operations and supply chains in New Zealand. Below is a submission made by academics and representatives from civil society that work on modern slavery and labour exploitation.
40.3 million people are a victim of modern slavery, 21 million of which are in forced labour.
While these estimates are not uncontentious, recurrent news reports that detail abusive working practices, including modern slavery in Australia and overseas, remind us that this is a real and significant problem.
For example, investigations into the Australian horticultural industry have uncovered a pattern of systemic underpayment and abuse of workers. Similarly, the production of rubber gloves in Malaysia is tainted by exploitative practices, such as excessive recruitment fees, withholding of passport and wages, threats to workers and forced overtime.
In the last four years, the Australian Government has taken steps to address workplace exploitation in the operations and supply chains of Australian companies and this week it ratified the International Labour Organization’s (ILO) Protocol on Forced Labour.
With the ratification of the ILO Protocol on Forced Labour, Australia inches closer to making its response to modern slavery more survivor-centred, placing increased emphasis on the rehabilitation and compensation of those that have been exploited.
Modern slavery has become a major talking point in recent years.
Many of us are familiar with the statistics: 40.3 million people are a victim of modern slavery, half of which perform forced labour. While not uncontentious, these figures are now well-known thanks to the advocacy of public figures and politicians.
While the abuses described by the term modern slavery do sadly occur, there are reasons to suggest that modern slavery is being weaponised for political purposes.
The big invisible problem of modern slavery allows the global system of production – and its exploitative features – to continue relatively unopposed, it is a useful tool in trade wars, and it helps to control the borders.