LONDON – New research claims transparency alone is not enough to end human trafficking and forced labour in global apparel supply chains. Among other things, the report calls for the UK Modern Slavery Act to be beefed up. It also claims transparency legislation needs to be backed by a range of other legislation relevant to the prevention of exploitation, including labour laws that apply to all workers. “While transparency is important, it is just one piece of the puzzle needed to tackle human trafficking and forced labour,” claims the report.
Written by Focus on Labour Exploitation, the report is based on interviews with industry stakeholders in Bangladesh and the UK. It argues that while mandatory transparency legislation such as the UK Modern Slavery Act (UK MSA) is increasingly adopted by new states as a tool to prevent human trafficking, there is an “urgent need to ensure that transparency drives meaningful change for workers.”
The researchers say: “While the UK MSA appears to have raised the awareness of modern slavery risks within some companies, worker representatives and experts say that its impact remains to be seen and importantly do not consider it to have the potential to drive long-term improvement for workers in its current form. The case studies drawn upon in this research set out the legal and enforcement frameworks in the Bangladesh and UK garment sectors and in so doing identify fundamental limitations to workers’ ability to effectively hold companies to account.
“The issues identified, including severe limitations to the right and ability of workers to unionise in Bangladesh and the access to remedy for migrant workers with insecure immigration status in both contexts, while crucial to accountability, are not addressed by mandatory transparency under the UK MSA or comparable legislation.”
However, the researchers suggest there is the potential make mandatory transparency a, “key component of a worker-centred corporate accountability framework with the aim of preventing human trafficking and forced labour.” They call for “broader coverage, more prescriptive reporting requirements, stronger monitoring and enforcement and the introduction of criminal liability (and a defence) for non-compliance, would give the UK MSA legislation the potential to drive change for workers in global supply chains.”
The report adds: “Mandatory transparency legislation, when well-designed, monitored and enforced, is an important piece of the corporate accountability puzzle. However, workers’ organisations, businesses, academics and civil society agree that a comprehensive corporate accountability framework is needed to strengthen workers’ rights to prevent human trafficking and forced labour. The protection of workers’ rights through effective labour law and its enforcement along with the right to collective bargaining must be viewed as an essential part of a state’s accountability framework.”
The full report can be downloaded HERE