Tag Archives: labour standards

Paper Promises? Examining Australia’s Modern Slavery Act

Two years into its operation, close to 4,000 statements have now been published on the government’s modern slavery register. Yet the extent to which the legislation is transforming business practices or making a tangible difference to the lives of workers remains highly uncertain. This report analyses 102 company statements published in the first reporting cycle of the MSA, to evaluate how many companies are starting to implement effective measures to address modern slavery and how many are lagging.

This report is part of a two-year collaborative research project by academics and civil society organisations aimed at improving responses to modern slavery and access to remedy for affected workers.

Paper Promises

Modern Slavery and the Employment Relationship: Defining the Continuum of Exploitation

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

Research Article: Making sense of Downstream Labour risk in Global Value Chains

While the efforts by actors on the buyer-side of value chains – such as brands and retailers – to address upstream labour abuses are well documented, there is a lack of research into how actors on the production-side of value chains – such as raw material producers – can identify and address downstream labour risks. This research presents the findings of an action research project that focused on the Australian cotton industry. By applying a sense-making lens, we propose four properties that can be used to identify labour risk in global value chains, providing insights into the capacity of producers to address downstream labour abuses. We suggest that there is a possibility for a ‘book-end’ approach that combines upstream and downstream actions by buyers and producers in global value chains.

The article can be found on the Journal of Industrial Relations website.

00221856211066628

Seasonal farm workers make claims of ‘modern slavery’

Some Pacific Islander workers say they feel like they are being “treated like slaves” as fruit pickers in Australia under the Seasonal Worker Programme.

For Samoan man Alex Muese, arriving in Australia to work was a dream come true.

Mr Muese, 34, carries great responsibility as he cares for eight children, his wife and her parents.

When he received his Seasonal Worker Programme (SWP) visa, he thought he would earn an hourly wage to support his family in Samoa.

Continue reading Seasonal farm workers make claims of ‘modern slavery’

How an Industry Known for Exploiting Workers is Cleaning Up its Act

The cleaning industry has long had a reputation for exploiting workers, as cut-throat competition delivers contracts with profit margins so thin there’s little room to pay cleaners their legal entitlements.

The Cleaning Accountability Framework, with the help of a group of business, law and IT researchers, is making inroads into what has seemed at times an intractable problem.

Dr Martijn Boersma, who lectures in industrial relations and business ethics at the University of Technology Sydney Business School, has been working with CAF and says non-compliance with labour standards has been a big issue in the cleaning industry.

Continue reading How an Industry Known for Exploiting Workers is Cleaning Up its Act

Submission: Wage Theft Senate Inquiry

Underpayment is becoming an increasingly prevalent issue in Australia, with certain industries and sub-sets of workers more affected than others. Given the increasing prevalence of wage theft, workers can become resigned to accept employment below the minimum wage due to expectations that underpayment is unavoidable. While the Fair Work Ombudsman (FWO) plays a key role in identifying and rectifying underpayments, increased funding is required to allow it to effectively uncover breaches. Both mandatory and voluntary supply chain measures can play a key role to help target the issue of underpayment. Our submission recommends new legislation be passed to better regulate labour standards and the gig economy, strengthening enforcement of existing regulations.

Wage Theft Submission FINAL

Can Blockchain help to break the chains of modern slavery?

File 20190430 194637 1lt4sbs.jpg?ixlib=rb 1.1
Global supply chains have struggled to deal with poor working conditions including child labour, forced labour and debt slavery. Julien Harneis/Flickr, CC BY-SA

There’s a good chance the device on which you are reading this contains cobalt. It’s an essential metal for batteries in phones and laptops. There’s also a chance the cobalt was mined by slaves. Continue reading Can Blockchain help to break the chains of modern slavery?

Global Corporations and Global Value Chains – The Disaggregation of Corporations?

The Oxford Handbook of the Corporation assesses the contemporary relevance, purpose, and performance of the corporation. The corporation is one of the most significant, if contested, innovations in human history, and the direction and effectiveness of corporate law, corporate governance, and corporate performance are being challenged as never before. Continuously evolving, the corporation as the primary instrument for wealth generation in contemporary economies demands frequent assessment and reinterpretation.

Read chapter 13: “Global Corporations and Global Value Chains – The Disaggregation of Corporations? on Google Books.

 

 

Apple’s $1 trillion riches based on innovation and exploitation

Apple has become the first American company to reach US$1 trillion in market capitalisation – US$1,000,000,000,000 in stockmarket value. Behind this glittering success, however, lies a series of unresolved ethical dilemmas a history of staggering labour exploitation.

The approaches of Apple and the other giant US platform technology companies (Google, Facebook, Amazon) to corporate taxation, concentration and privacy have attracted widespread criticism.

But as a manufacturing company Apple faces a more deep-seated problem. This involves the millions of people employed in its supply chain, which is largely located in China with the major contractor Foxconn.

Our research shows human rights, environmental and ethical problems persist inside Apple’s vast global supply chains.

Continue reading Apple’s $1 trillion riches based on innovation and exploitation