Supermarkets in Australia and around the world are under growing pressure to clean up their supply chains and rid them of modern slavery.
Discount chain Aldi last week became the first of Australia’s supermarkets to sign up to the Slave-Free Alliance, an offshoot of global anti-slavery organisation Hope for Justice.
Under the agreement, Aldi committed to conducting a human rights risk assessment of its operations as well as providing modern slavery awareness training to its employees and business partners, so suppliers and staff with product sourcing responsibilities can identify the signs of modern slavery and take action.
But University of Technology Sydney Business School modern slavery expert Martijn Boersma said Aldi’s decision to sign up to the Slave-Free Alliance was “more on the symbolic side of things than on the substantive side of things”.
The Customs Amendment (Banning Goods Produced By Uyghur Forced Labour) Bill 2020 is currently under consideration by the Australian Senate Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Legislation Committee and a report is due by 12 May 2021.
Professor Justine Nolan and Dr Martijn Boersma have made a submission arguing that the Australian Government should:
Expand the proposed Bill to prohibit the importation of all goods produced or manufactured using forced labour (regardless of their geographical origin).
Consider the ability to impose fines on importers and end-buyers who import prohibit good and apply such fines for the provision of institutional support for survivors of trafficking and modern slavery.
Ratify ILO Protocol of 2014 to the Forced Labour Convention, 1930 (PO29) to ensure the development of holistic legislative framework that will sit alongside the Modern Slavery Act, and a new law that bans the importation of goods produced or manufactured using forced labour.
Consider publicly disclosing which goods are prohibited from importation, as well as associated importers, manufacturers and geographical locations.
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
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.
The Thomson Reuters Foundation News details how Brazil is aiming to build a network of social workers to support people rescued from modern slavery, and help prevent would-be victims from being trafficked. “The social workers would be primed to offer immediate post-rescue care to victims, and provide follow-up assistance such as ensuring that survivors are signed up to government aid schemes and children are enrolled in school.”
Providing adequate institutional support is absolutely critical, given the growing number of (modern slavery) laws and amendments that are introduced. It is vital that governments prepare for the potential flow-on effects. In the excerpt from our book “Addressing Modern Slavery”, Justine Nolan and myself address the importance of support from authorities for modern slavery survivors and the key role that government has to play:
An estimated 40 million people across the globe are modern slaves. This means they’re coerced into work, earn low wages or are being exploited. What do you know about the conditions that the coffee you drink or the clothes you wear were produced in? Two experts explain how we all need to up the ante to consider ourselves ethical consumers.
Associate Professor Justine Nolan, Human rights law at University of New South Wales
Dr Martijn Boersma, Lecturer in Industrial Relations & Business Ethics, University of Technology Sydney
This interview was aired on ABC Radio National, Life Matters with Hilary Harper.
Companies often talk about being on a human rights ‘journey’; a long and winding course with many stops along the way. On the other hand, they are never on a ‘journey’ to profit – this tends to happen as quickly as possible. Given that Big Business has long been accused of paying lip service to its social responsibilities, the statement signed last month by virtually all the members of the US Business Roundtable, has caused quite a stir.
Their statement on the purpose of a corporation talks about dealing fairly and ethically with suppliers, supporting the communities in which they work and respecting people and the environment by embracing sustainable practices. It also highlights that the signatory companies, including Amazon, Ford and JP Morgan, ‘are committed to transparency’.
However, global supply chains are anything but transparent; today there are more than 21 million people around the world trapped in forced labour, most of whom produce goods for consumers around the globe.
Modern slavery and supply chain transparency are some of the new buzz words attracting increased attention from the corporate sector, write Justine Nolan and Martijn Boersma.
In 2018, Australia (and NSW) enacted modern slavery laws which require entities to report on the risks of modern slavery in their operations and supply chains and actions taken to address those risks. This new law will impact companies, law firms, universities and the Australian government who will now need to have a better understanding about how their operations and procurement practices may be enabling modern slavery.