The Special Issue on ‘Modern Slavery and the Employment Relationship: Defining the Continuum of Exploitation’ in the Journal of Industrial Relations is now available online. The Special Issue focuses on what the large- and small-scale risk factors are that can cause working conditions to deteriorate, on how people can become trapped in exploitative conditions, and on what can be done to prevent and remedy labour abuses. Included articles explore the macro-level, specifically by examining global value chains and the labour exploitation within the global production regime and by examining the producer-end (rather than buyer end) of value chains and the responsibilities of companies for working conditions further downstream (rather than upstream) in the value chain. Other articles explore the market-based character of business and human rights regulation. One article concludes that market enforcement of modern slavery regulation is sub-optimal and should include $ penalties and a public regulator while another article asks whether business and human rights regulation originating in the Global North can improve working conditions in the Global South (spoiler: it’s complicated). Articles looking at the micro-level examine labour regimes on factory floors, specifically by examining the influence of the post-Rana Plaza labour governance system on worker outcomes and conditions of employment (hardship remains but less sweatshops) and by documenting the work experiences of Romanian transnational live-in care workers in Austria, where workers gave accounts of having been treated unfairly due to their dependence on placement agencies and employers.Boersma and Nolan - 2022 - Modern slavery and the employment relationship Ex
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.
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.
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:
- 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;
- 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;
- The Government should update its procurement policies to follow international best-practice, and provide additional training to procurement officers;
- The Government should leverage the impact of public spending by creating a procurement connected policy concerning modern slavery;
- 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;
- The Government should include two additional goals which focus on the nexus between climate change and gender with modern slavery.
- 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;
- The Government should create an anti-slavery helpline and geographically plot calls to reveal hotspots across Australia.
“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.”
Justine Nolan and myself will be at the Adelaide Writers’ Week on Saturday 29 February, appearing at the West Stage at 12pm. The full program can be found below.
Her Excellency the Honourable Margaret Beazley AO QC Governor of New South Wales spoke at the annual Charteris Dinner and Oration, which marked the 95th anniversary of the Australian Institute of International Affairs, on Wednesday 27 November 2019.
The Governor referred to the book “Addressing Modern Slavery” a dozen times.
A full transcript of the speech can be found below.
“Justine Nolan and Martijn Boersma, academics, have provided a sobering book, Addressing Modern Slavery (NewSouth Books). In its current form, they say, slavery is less about the ownership of people than their exploitation through deceit, intimidation, and coercion. People from under-developed countries are the most likely victims, often tricked into working on farms or in mines, because paying them effectively nothing is more cost-effective than using machinery. Nolan and Boersma also look at the situation in Australia, where there have been many cases of illegal immigrants or others of dubious legal status being exploited. They argue that legitimate businesses have an obligation to monitor contractors and supply chains to identify cases of exploitation, and outline how it can be done. But the nightmare stories stay in the reader’s mind. This is an awful book, and a very important one.”
Originally published by The Spectator.
Earlier this year Justine Nolan, Laurie Berg and myself supported a shareholder resolution filed by the Australasian Centre for Corporate Responsibility, which was heard at the Coles Annual General Meeting on 13 November 2019.
The resolution asking the supermarket to reassess its supply chain policies to reduce reliance on third-party audits, and to consult more with unions. At the meeting, workers from the supermarket’s farmer suppliers challenged Coles’ executives over its ethical sourcing policy, asking the retailer to work with unions to ensure workers are fairly treated and paid. The resolution was supported by 12.8 per cent of shareholders.
Coles recently signed memorandum of understanding with three major Australian unions as a sign of the retailer’s willingness to work with unions. Unfortunately this does not include the National Union of Workers (who recently merged with United Voice to form the United Workers Union). This is a missed opportunity for Coles to embrace Worker-Driven Social Responsibility.
Review in the Weekend Australian. Full text below.