What you need to know
Supply chain workers are not directly employed by the brands for whom they produce goods, and can be left destitute when the work stops.
By Martijn Boersma and Justine Nolan
But things are worse overseas, including for the workers who make products for Australians.
20,000 garment workers in Cambodia face job losses from 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.
More indirect than direct employees
But what does it mean by its workforce, and how does it define its “teams”?
Supply chain workers are not directly employed by the brands for whom they produce goods, and can be left destitute when the work , needing to search for even more precarious work and exposing themselves to a greater risk of exploitation.
Extreme examples, such as those experienced by Uyghurs’ working as forced laborers in Chinese supply chains or fishermen trapped on boats in the Pacific, might seem remote to us, but they are part of the delivery of goods most of us consume daily.
Two reports released this month make that clear.
From this year, the more than 3,000 companies with turnovers in excess of A$100 million will have to publicly report on the modern slavery risks in their operations and supply chains and the action they have taken to tackle them as a requirement of Australia’s new .
The Modern Slavery Act is a sliding door
Australia’s Modern Slavery Act, which comes into force later this year, offers Australian companies an opportunity to take a holistic approach to preventing and addressing risks in all parts of their operation, not only those involving people they directly employ.
But it isn’t certain that they all will.
The first step for those companies that are serious is to understand what they can see and what they cannot.
Companies need to drill down beyond their direct suppliers. Some will be able to easily trace the origin of their raw materials, most will not.
The second step is to understand risk correctly.
It is important to consider not only risks to the business, but also the risks the business poses to others, including its indirect employees.
The persistence of modern slavery derives in part from purchasing practices that put extreme pressure on suppliers, such as extremely tight production windows, short-term contracts, last-minute or short-term orders and severe payment terms.
A global economic crisis might make them worse.
Finally, it is vital that companies engage and collaborate with others, including suppliers, workers, and the public in order to understand how best to address these risks.
The next few months will provide vital clues as to whether Australian companies are really serious about addressing modern slavery, or whether they regard the Act as merely symbolic.
TNL Editor: Daphne K. Lee (@thenewslensintl)
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