Tag Archives: regulation

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

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.

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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

Submission to the Inquiry into the NSW Modern Slavery Act 2018

The Standing Committee on Social Issues is inquiring into and reporting on the Modern Slavery Act 2018 (NSW) (the NSW Act), the consultation draft of the Modern Slavery Bill 2019 (the amendment Bill), and the consultation draft of the Modern Slavery Regulation 2019 (NSW) (the Regulation), with particular reference to:

  • (a) the operability of the proposed anti-slavery scheme
  • (b) the effect of the anti-slavery scheme on business, including the supply chain reporting obligations under section 24 of the NSW Act
  • (c) the intended application of the anti-slavery scheme with respect to charities and not-forprofit organisations, State Owned Corporations and local councils
  • (d) the appropriateness and enforceability of Modern Slavery Risk Orders under section 29 of the NSW Act
  • (e) the unintended consequences of drafting issues with the NSW Act, including with respect to the Human Tissue Act 1983 (NSW) and the sale and supply of human tissue
  • (f) the risk of a possible constitutional challenge to current provisions in the NSW Act due to inconsistencies with the Criminal Code Act 1995 (Cth)
  • (g) whether the passage of the Modern Slavery Act 2018 (Cth) renders parts or all of the NSW Act unnecessary, or requiring of amendment to address inconsistencies or gaps
  • (h) the preferred course of action to address the matters identified
  • (i) any other related matter.

Below is the submission made by Justine Nolan and Martijn Boersma.

Submission to NSW MSA 2019 NOLAN BOERSMA Oct 4 2019

Book Review: “Addressing Modern Slavery”

When the Bill that became the Modern Slavery Act 2018 (Cth) was introduced into the federal parliament, it was accompanied by a grim message: two centuries after the abolition of the slave trade in the United Kingdom, it is estimated that there are twenty-five million victims of modern slavery worldwide. It also came with a bracing if Panglossian promise: that the Modern Slavery Act would ‘transform’ the way large companies in Australia do business, and drive a ‘race to the top’. Published a year after the introduction of this legislation, Addressing Modern Slavery is a timely reflection on the pervasiveness of modern slavery in global supply chains – and on the role of the state, business, and other actors in combating this serious and complex problem.

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Modern slavery laws – what do they mean for your business?

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.

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Education & Employment References Committee: Exploitation of Cleaners

In June 2018, the Senate referred an inquiry into the exploitation of general and specialist  cleaners working in retail chains for contracting or subcontracting cleaning companies to the Education and Employment References Committee. A submission to this inquiry was made by the Centre for Social and Business Innovation at the University of Technology, and a colleague and myself participated in a public hearing in September 2018.

Executive Summary:

A growing body of evidence indicates the need for a consistent industry-wide approach for employment standards for cleaners; and the consideration of alternative business and employment models for the cleaning industry. Non-compliance with existing regulations right across the supply chain, have been found to disrupt tenant operations, and have resulted in negative outcomes for cleaners. These have included underpayments, the loss of superannuation payments, sham contracting arrangements, uncertainty and financial hardship. Addressing these issues will require a range of solutions, both regulatory and non-regulatory. While improved enforcement will address some issues, alternative business models and support for voluntary frameworks to establish industry-wide frameworks for employment standards pertaining to cleaners also have a role to play.

Read the full submission and the transcript of the public hearing.

A New Catalyst Report Outlines Opportunities for Supply Chain Reform

Supply Chain Reform

Australian businesses have recently been implicated in serious labour abuses, both within and beyond Australia’s borders. A new paper by Catalyst Australia and The Australia Institute examines legislative developments aimed at tackling slavery and trafficking in other jurisdictions, and argues that Australia should learn from these measures in the face of urgent human rights issues with immediate impacts for Australian companies, government, investors and consumers.

 

Minister accused of killing supply chain abuse findings

Justice Minister Michael Keenan is yet to respond to a report on slavery from a working group he set up. Image: Fairfax
Justice Minister Michael Keenan is yet to respond to a report on slavery from a working group he set up. Image: Fairfax

Justice Minister Michael Keenan has been accused of “death by committee” after he failed to respond to a report of a working group he set up recommending laws to stop exploitation in company supply chains.

The group has now released its own report fearing its  recommendations will be ignored.

Exploitation scandals have hit major Australian brands over the past year. In February, Rip Curl was forced to apologise after its clothing labelled “made in China” was found to be made in North Korean factories. The company blamed a subcontractor.

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Australian government slow to respond to supply chain labour exploitation

Rescue workers and volunteers search by hand for victims amongst the debris of the collapsed Rana Plaza building in Dhaka, Bangladesh. Photo: Jeff Holt
Rescue workers and volunteers search by hand for victims amongst the debris of the collapsed Rana Plaza building in Dhaka, Bangladesh. Photo: Jeff Holt

Sunday marks three years since the Rana Plaza garment factory collapse in Bangladesh. This disaster led to the tragic loss of 1130 lives, left 2500 injured, and sparked a global debate about workers’ rights and ethical labour standards in low-wage countries. In Australia, civil society organisations such as Baptist World Aid and Oxfam lead the charge to expose labour abuses and improve working conditions in global supply chains. But thus far the government has been largely absent form this debate and has been slow to act.

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