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Governing global supply chains

Can the world end forced labour by 2030?

GENEVIEVE LEBARON
University of Sheffield

The world’s high level of interest in modern slavery and trafficking exists in part because many leading brand companies have been shown to profit from the use of exploitative labour practices in their supply chains. The campaigns and exposés demonstrating these links have pressured big firms into accepting more responsibility for the workers producing their products. And, over the past few years, we’ve seen an increasing number of corporate and governmental initiatives aimed at improving the labour standards of the world’s workplaces. These initiatives have generally taken increased supply chain transparency as their primary mechanism for improvement, rather than punitive regulation or sanction, on the theory that ‘good’ companies will discover and address hidden exploitation, while ‘bad’ companies will be exposed for what they are, and will be punished for it by consumers and the market. Read on...

Exploring the supply chain

Capitalism's unfree global workforce

SUSAN FERGUSON and DAVID MCNALLY
Wilfrid Laurier University and York University (Toronto)

Neoliberal migration and border regimes instantiate a de facto forced labour regime. Migration is increasingly key to providing capital’s precarious workforce, but unfree labour has long been central to global capitalism.

What has forced labour to do with poverty?

NICOLA PHILLIPS
University of Sheffield

Income-based measures of poverty are unreliable for determining who is most vulnerable to forced labour. More nuanced understandings of vulnerability are required to effectively reduce forced labour in the global economy.

Free to stitch, or starve: capitalism and unfreedom in the global garment industry

ALESSANDRA MEZZADRI
SOAS

Growing attention is focused on ‘modern slavery’ and forced labour in the garment industry, but broader forms of unfreedom ensnare the workers stitching our clothes.


Still slaving over sugar

BEN RICHARDSON
University of Warwick

Despite the historical emancipation of the enslaved, there are still practices in sugar production that need to be abolished. Is mechanisation the answer?

The role of labour market intermediaries in driving forced and unfree labour

KENDRA STRAUSS
Simon Fraser University

There is a lot of talk about multinational corporations’ responsibility for fuelling forced labour. But what about the labour market intermediaries who supply vulnerable workers to these firms?


Poverty chains and global capitalism

BENJAMIN SELWYN
University of Sussex

Reorienting value generated within ‘global poverty chains’ is essential to improving the lives of an impoverished world labour force.

Forced labour under a changing climate: droughts and debt in semi-arid India

MARCUS TAYLOR
Queen’s University

Climatic change compounds the dependencies existing between households in semi-arid South Asia. To avoid more coerced labour, public policy must address the root causes of such vulnerability.


Food retailers and forced labour

SÉBASTIEN RIOUX
Université du Québec à Montréal

Market concentration allows retailers to command low prices, quick turnaround and high quality from farmers and suppliers.

REPORT

40.3 million slaves? Four reasons to question the new Global Estimates of Modern Slavery

2017 marks a new departure for the Global Slavery Index, and a huge boost in legitimacy for Walk Free – for the first time its index is fused with data from the International Labour Organisation and additional input from the International Organisation for Migration to form the Global Estimates of Modern Slavery (GEMS).

The stamp of approval from these two UN-associated institutions places the GEMS at the centre of planning around the sustainable development goals as it directly relates to target 8.7 on the elimination of forced labour, modern slavery and child labour. This is remarkable, and the elevated status of the GEMS invites debate and scrutiny on a new level.

We must hold tools like indices and indicators to the highest standards because they are intentionally designed to shape the behaviour of governments, international organisations, and citizens around the world. GEMS will act as a benchmark for the future evolution of modern slavery, and measurements are skewed, the policy prescriptions based on them will be skewed as well. Read on...

The politics of numbers and the marketplace of activism

JOEL QUIRK and ANDRÉ BROOME
U. Witwatersrand, U. Warwick

The Global Slavery Index is profoundly flawed yet remains widely and often uncritically cited. What underlies its production?

Walk Free: measuring global slavery, or masking global hypocrisy?

JULIA O'CONNELL DAVIDSON and SAM OKYERE
U. Bristol and U. Nottingham

The Walk Free Foundation claims to fight ‘modern slavery’ by measuring its extent, but is its index not just an exercise in political hypocrisy?

How big is the trafficking problem? The mysteries of quantification

SALLY MERRY ENGLE
New York University

Victims are hard to count because they are hidden and definitions are ambiguous, yet efforts to quantify them shape what we know and do about trafficking.

DEBATE: Can corporations be trusted to tackle modern slavery?

We asked nine movers and shakers in the field of labour policy to respond to the following: 'Ending forced labor and modern slavery in global supply chains requires binding legislation, rather than corporate self-regulation and self-disclosure. Yes or no?' This is what they answered.

Respondents

Anannya Bhattacharjee
Garment & Allied Workers' Union

Urmila Bhoola
UN Special Rapporteur on Contemporary Forms of Slavery

Cathy Feingold
AFL-CIO

Hugh Helferty
Queen's School of Business

Houtan Homayounpour
International Labour Organisation

Ed Potter
Formerly of the Coca-Cola Company

Anna de Courcy Wheeler
The Freedom Fund

Lara White
International Organisation for Migration

Leonardo Sakamoto
National Commission for the Eradication of Slave Labour

Introduction: In whom should we trust?

We sometimes speak about the global economy as if it were a force of nature, or as a patient with uncertain health. It can be tamed or unleashed, wounded or healed. The specific language used can reveal a great deal about how people think about economic processes and government policies. As any economist can tell you, the main bone of contention is often the role of regulation. Why and when is regulation required, and what form should it ideally take? Over the last three decades, this enduring debate has taken on new features, since so much of what now gets consumed comes from factories and workers in other countries. Instead of making goods in-house, corporations now subcontract many aspects of their production processes to partners in developing countries with lower wages, less regulation, and fewer protections for workers. There is no question that global supply chains are good for corporations, but do they work for workers? Read on...

Carrots and sticks: increasing accountability for modern slavery

CLAIRE FALCONER
Focus on Labour Exploitation

Corporate accountability for modern slavery has received greater political and legislative attention in recent years, but is reporting enough?

Why show your cards? Transparency in agricultural supply chains

LETIZIA PALUMBO
University of Palermo

Despite claims to the contrary, transparency alone is not capable of addressing the power relations found inside supply chains.

Sanctioning employers does not prevent exploitation

ALICE BLOCH and SONIA MCKAY
U. Manchester and U. of the West of England

Prohibiting undocumented work will not stop its use, but it may increase exploitation while damaging community cohesion.

Regulating the supply chain

Addressing forced labour in fragmented chains of production

FABIOLA MIERES and SIOBHÁN MCGRATH
Durham University

We love buying exotic and low-priced food, cheap T-shirts, and eye-catching novelties. We love all these things that make us feel ‘special’. And as informed readers we might also have a sense of the long journey Uzbek or Brazilian cotton makes through China or India to become that precious T-shirt later resold in other parts of the world. This dispersion and fragmentation of global production is celebrated as one of the key features of the global economy. What are the consequences of this for forced labour in supply chains? In this piece we examine several different initiatives aimed at addressing forced labour within globally fragmented production. Our goal is to highlight examples of what may or may not work as we begin to tackle this problem. Read on...

What would loosen the roots of labour exploitation in supply chains?

RACHEL WILSHAW
Oxfam

Forced labour is a symptom of a wider malaise facing workers in global supply chains. Governance gaps and skewed business structures are exacerbating inequality and must be tackled for workers to be properly protected.

Countries quietly solidify their right to use forced labour

JEAN ALLAIN
Queen’s University, Belfast

Recent international legal developments that appear to strengthen efforts to combat forced labour – such as the ILO’s 2014 Forced Labour Protocol – actually solidify governments’ right to exploit.


ILO campaigns: missing the wood for the trees?

JENS LERCHE
SOAS

By abstracting ‘forced labour’ from capitalism, the ILO de-politicises all labour exploitation. This is the opposite of what is needed.

The UK Gangmasters Licensing Agency: a model to be followed

THANOS MAROUKIS
University of Bath

The GLA has helped mitigate labour exploitation at the British end of agricultural supply chains, but British immigration policies and labour protection gaps in sending countries threaten those gains.


Global supply chains: the role of law? A role for law!

ANDREAS RÜHMKORF
University of Sheffield

International law lacks stringent mechanisms for ensuring worker protection in global supply chains. Rich nations must fill this legal gap.

A proposal for transnational supply chain labour regulation

SHELLEY MARSHALL
Monash University

Supply chains without international cooperation will never work, but an enforced international average minimum wage supported by the correct incentives could help produce a just global economy.


Efforts to clean up global supply chains so far come up short

JEFFREY VOGT
Solidarity Center

The UK’s Modern Slavery Act fell short of holding companies accountable for forced labour in their supply chains. Can the loopholes be fixed?

POLICY CREATION

The path to the UK's Modern Slavery Act 2015: an oral history project

The UK’s Modern Slavery Act, 2015 was hotly debated by policy-shapers during the drafting process. We take a behind-the-scenes look at one of last year’s most contentious bills.

A piece of legislation rushed into place with an eye to the May 2015 general elections, the Modern Slavery Act was widely perceived as a legislative ‘legacy’ of the Conservative government. Several provisions of the draft bill were controversial, and particularly civil society actors were concerned that the rhetoric of modern slavery would be used to further a highly carceral piece of legislation.

Under these circumstances, how did civil society actors engage with the government during the drafting process? The MSA oral history project is a way of using the Modern Slavery Act, 2015 as a case study for gaining a realistic understanding of how the contemporary anti-trafficking discourse is translated into policy. Read on...

The problem with the British government's approach to exploitation

CAROLINE ROBINSON
Focus on Labour Exploitation

Exploring the coordinated activism behind the Modern Slavery Act

VICKY BROTHERTON
Anti-Trafficking Monitoring Group

How did we get the Modern Slavery Act?

MICHAEL DOTTRIDGE
Independent consultant

Shaping the Modern Slavery Act: a look back

CINDY BERMAN
Ethical Trading Initiative

Fighting to protect domestic workers with the Modern Slavery Act

KATE ROBERTS
Kalayaan (Former)

The thorny ramifications of the Modern Slavery Act

PETER RAMSAY
London School of Economics and Political Science

Extension to Michael Dottridge's ‘How did we get the Modern Slavery Act’

FRANK FIELD
Labour MP for Birkenhead

Worker organising in the supply chain

National trade unions in a globalised world

CATHY FEINGOLD
AFL-CIO

Transnational bargaining, corporate accountability, and a full revamp of the global labour architecture – these are the challenges facing unions as they seek to address exploitation in global supply chains. Read on...

Regional organising and the struggle to set the Asia floor wage

ANANNYA BATTACHARJEE
Asia Floor Wage


Collective bargaining in the Global(ised) South

MOHAN MANI
Centre for Workers Management in India

Trade unions need networks spanning the entire supply chain if they’re to take on multinationals.

Global supply chains: an inter-country race to the bottom

MARK ANNER
Penn State University


Organising domestic workers across Africa: a regional view

VICKY KANYOKA
International Domesic Workers Federation

Africa's domestic workers have gone from barely any organisational contact to a thriving movement.

The 30-year success of the Self Employed Women's Association

NALINI NAYAK
Affiliation


Organising the unorganised in the Indian labour market

GOPINATH K. PARAKUNI
Cividep India

When will the workers of India become sufficiently united to demand a change in terms?

Claiming rights under the kafala system

MARIE-JOSÉ L. TAYEH
International Domestic Workers Federation

The Middle East hosts 1.5 and 2.5 million migrant domestic workers. They are governed by the kafala system, a private sponsorship scheme that ties work and residence permits to a specific employer and makes employment transfer or termination contingent on the sponsor’s approval. It is a system that leaves workers at the complete mercy of their employers. So how can they organise?


The permance of 'governance gaps'

GEORGIOS ALTINTZIS
International Trade Union Confederation

BTS speaks with Georgios Altintzis of the International Trade Union Confederation on the lag between globalisation and governance that is devastating the global work force.


From the supply chain: Home Net Indonesia

CECILIA SUSILORETNO

How do global supply chains penetrate workers' homes in Indonesia.

Slow progress at the ILC

JENNIFER ROSENBAUM
National Guestworker Alliance


From the supply chain: Jobs With Justice

BENJAMIN WOODS

How important is a binding convention on supply chains.

The need for global solidarity

MARK MEINSTER
Warehouse Workers for Justice


Interview: Labour Education and Research Network

TONY SALVADOR

How do short-term contracts imperil workers in the Philippines.

BTS SHORT COURSE

Forced labour in the Global Economy

Edited by GENEVIEVE LEBARON and NEIL HOWARD

There is a growing and sober awareness among international policymakers and within global civil society that human trafficking, slavery and forced labour are not anomalies perpetuated by a few ‘bad apple’ employers. Rather, such severe labour exploitation is an endemic feature of the contemporary global economy. This edited collection brings together some of the sharpest minds from the worlds of academia and activism to investigate and shed light on the root causes of this exploitation. Its essays analyse how business demand for forced labour manifests in certain industries, as well as how political and economic factors combine to generate a supply of workers vulnerable to abuse. Written in intelligent yet accessible prose, it represents a key resource for policy, activism and research.

Learn more about the BTS Short Course

Cameron Thibos

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