Amazon is investigating the working practices of one of its key suppliers in China - Hengyang Foxconn factory after they were found to have illegally recruited hundreds of student interns aged 16-18, many of whom were also working overtime. These students worked long hours to meet production targets. Those working overtime were only paid the normal hourly rate instead of time-and-a-half which is required by Chinese law and by Amazon’s own supplier code of conduct.
Collected news links from external sources related to topics concerning the Book Chain Project.
China has taken further steps to reduce the burden of social insurance on employers by implementing new policies and rules. On production safety, the government issued a policy titled ‘Measures on Coordination Between Administrative Enforcement and Criminal Proceedings in Production Safety Crimes’, which will mean tighter enforcement in this area. Some new updates on workplace sexual harassment and personal data protection have also been put forward by government. Employers are asked to review these newly issued policies and any forthcoming national and local policies to ensure their practices are in line with the regulations.
India's top court instructed a garment firm to pay pensions to women who had worked for them from home in the 1990s. There are an estimated 37 million home-based workers across various sectors in India. Besides being denied minimum wages, home-workers get no social security or medical benefits from employers and have virtually no avenue to seek redress for abusive or unfair conditions. The new ruling could set a precedent, helping millions of "invisible" workers access staff benefits.
An 18-month investigation conducted by Transparentem unearthed serious abuses at five apparel factories in Malaysia – hundreds of migrant workers had paid illegal recruitment fees that sometimes exceeded a year’s pay, while four of the factories retained the workers’ passports. The findings were presented to 23 western companies, fifteen of whom agreed to help remediate the five factories by defining specific resolutions. In addition, the American Apparel and Footwear Association – which includes Nike, Gap, Ralph Lauren and 120 other companies – announced a new policy on “responsible recruitment” that requires “supply chain partners” to make sure no workers pay recruitment fees and “workers retain control of their travel documents and have full freedom of movement”.
In late April, 29 instances of labour unrest occurred in China, but none of these incidents were reported in the state-run press. This contrasts sharply with the widespread coverage of the tech industry’s pervasive “996” work culture, where employees are expected to work 9am to 9pm, six days per week.
In the build-up to Indian general elections, a survey found that clean drinking water and agriculture-related governance were high on Indian voters’ list of priorities. High levels of water and air pollution, plaguing Indian cities in recent years, were a bigger concern for voters in urban areas.
An explosion at a pesticide plant in eastern China's Jiangsu province killed 78 people and injured more than 600. The government has since launched a nationwide inspection into hazardous chemicals, mines, transportation and fire safety. The area's environmental protection bureau has implemented an emergency plan to remove and treat toxic wastewater from a nearby river, with concentrations of harmful chemicals like benzene well past safe limits. The Chinese government vowed to tighten environmental impact assessment approvals for chemical plants and enhance daily inspections. It has also said it will revise the Production Safety Law this year in response to the explosion.
Jiangsu’s provincial government also have plans to close thousands of chemical production sites and chemical parks over the next three years.
- chemical plants
- Chinese goverment
- daily inspections
- Deadly chemical blast
- emergency plan
- environmental impact assessment approvals
- environmental protection bureau
- fire safety
- hazardous chemicals
- Jiangsu province
- pesticide plant
- Production Safety Law
- toxic wastewater
An investigation by the Thomson Reuters Foundation found that some workers at tea estates certified by Rainforest Alliance and Fairtrade in Sri Lanka suffer from illegal wage deductions and take home as little as 14 U.S. cents a day. Rainforest Alliance and Fairtrade said they were investigating as deducting wages without workers' consent was not allowed by law and contravened their standards. Unilever said it was "deeply concerned" and would investigate. Major tea company Tetley, owned by India's Tata Global Beverages, said it was in touch with the Rainforest Alliance regarding the findings.
On November 19, 2018, Chinese State Administration for Market Regulation and Standardization Administration announced the release of the revised Identification of Major Hazard Installations for Hazardous Chemicals (GB 18218-2018). It came into mandatory effect on March 1, 2019. Major hazard sources in printing industry may include the inflammables and explosives, such as methylbenzene and ethanol used in printing ink, cleansing solvent, as well as VOC that may lead to serious disease.
Focus on Labour Exploitation (FLEX) and the International Corporate Accountability Roundtable (ICAR) jointly published Towards Better Modern Slavery Reporting, a review of global modern slavery legislation. It highlighted gaps in legislation and provides clear recommendations for governments and companies to enhance future modern slavery reporting.
A private member's Bill was introduced in Canada to introduce mandatory company reporting on childlabour and modern slavery through the imposition of certain measures and amending the Customs Tariff. The draft can be found here. It now requires government approval to pass.
The Australian Modern Slavery Act passed in December 2018. The Act sets a Modern Slavery Reporting Requirement to require certain large businesses and other entities in Australia to make annual public reports - Modern Slavery Statements - on their actions to address modern slavery risks in their operations and supply chains.
India “has the capacity to clean up, but not the political will”. This piece from the Economist’s Asia edition cites political apathy towards pollution and failures to listen to middle classes as two of the most significant factors in India’s continuing struggle with environmental protection. The country also shows mixed responses to their climate change commitments, as data shows a significant preference for coal power generation over cleaner gas-fired plants.
Japanese police are investigating a possible human trafficking operation after arresting 11 Chinese construction workers at a solar power plant over visa violations and finding another 46 have fled. The case comes as Japan faceslabour shortages owing to an ageing population and political discussions are now considering legislation to allow more foreign workers.
In a bid to clean up China’s second largest freshwater lake, local authorities in Hunan Province will close all pulp and paper mills around Dongting Lake by the end of 2019. The c18,000 people employed in the Province's pulp and paper industry will be supported by the local authorityin to new employment. This move is part of wider water pollution controls active since 2006 in Hunan Province. They have led to closures of over 200 waste paper pulping factories and 30 pulp and paper making facilities. The efforts to restore the lake over the past 40 years have helped it extend its area by 30%, providing better flood resilience in the region.
Malaysia has shown positive intent to resolve the Nepali migrant worker crisis. The crisis started after Nepal government shut dubious visa processing agencies that illegally charged fees from Nepali workers. Both parties discussed about the probability of some temporary arrangement for the departure workers already cleared by the Malaysian Immigration and who have paid for Immigration Security Clearance and biometric identification test. The Malaysian government plans to introduce reforms in migrant labour sector. Malaysia will move ahead at the ministerial level after discussions end with clarity. It will hold another round of consultations with labour source countries to resolve all issues.
The rise of robots in manufacturing in Southeast Asia is likely to fuel modern-day slavery as workers who end up unemployed due to automation face abuses competing for a shrinking pool of low-paid jobs in a “race to the bottom”. Especially, the workers in Cambodia, Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam and the Philippines — at least 137 million people — risk losing their jobs because of the automation in the next two decades. Those workers are more vulnerable to workplace abuses as they jostle for fewer jobs at lower wages.
Indonesia is making it easier for foreigners to work here — but they will have to study as well. A decree by President Joko Widodo that is set to take effect on June will simplify Indonesia’s procedures for issuing work permits to foreigners, which are often hampered by delays, arbitrary denials and revocations, not to mention compulsory bribes to civil servants just to stamp the paperwork. Buried inside the order is a section requiring all expatriate workers to undergo formal Indonesian language training, an apparent first for any nation in Southeast Asia. The foreign business community has been caught off guard by the new requirement.
Pressure to meet fast fashion deadlines is leading to women working in Asian factories supplying Gap and H&M being sexually and physically abused, according to two separate reports published by Global Labour Justice on gender-based violence in garment supply chains. More than 540 female workers at factories that supply the Gap and H&M have described incidents of threats and abuse. The reports claim that these allegations recorded between January and May this year in Bangladesh, Cambodia, India, Indonesia and Sri Lanka, are a direct result of pressure for quick turnarounds and low overheads. Gap and H&M are going to investigate the allegations and they welcome initiatives to tackle violence, including an ILO convention.
The Forest Trust have released a short video on their Respect programme which aims to address human rights issues in agricultural supply chains. It discusses some of the issues on plantations in Indonesia and in the manufacturing sector in China, and the worker-focused solutions they are implementing to tackle them.