Indonesian workers in the UK “at risk of debt bondage”
KnowTheChain’s monthly newsletter shares worker perspectives, the latest from the KnowTheChain team, and updates and resources on forced labour in supply chains in the business and human rights sphere.
A report by Equidem recounts the situation of migrant workers from Africa and Asia working at World Cup partner hotels in Qatar and their reality of being subjected to labour exploitation and human rights abuses. The report draws on interviews with 80 migrant workers, finding nationality-based wage discrimination at all 32 partner hotels. Among those interviewed, workers also reported sexual harassment, wage theft, sudden loss of employment, and illegal recruitment charges.
“For nine months, we were made to work for more than 12 hours a day, without a day off. In order to keep our hours hidden, we were prevented from clocking in and clocking out. I was on the verge of going insane.”
Forced labour: The latest developments
Indonesian workers picking berries on a farm in Kent supplying Marks & Spencer, Waitrose, Sainsbury’s and Tesco are reported to be “at risk of debt bondage” as they struggle to pay recruitment fees of up to £5,000 by unlicensed brokers to work in the UK for a single season. Workers were reportedly initially given zero-hour contracts. The reported fees to secure work were to include flights and visas but workers also reported that they had to pay thousands of pounds in extra charges from Indonesian brokers promising that their earnings would be substantial.
Migrant workers at Malaysia’s Brightway file a lawsuit in the US against Kimberly-Clark Corporation and Ansell accusing them of “knowingly profiting” from alleged use of forced labour. The complaint alleges that public reports on Brightway as well as other Malaysian rubber glove makers, and violations discovered in audits, evidence the two companies’ knowledge of abuses.
The Japanese government has published draft human rights due diligence guidelines for public comments.
For further news on forced labour in relation to business and human rights see the Business & Human Rights Resource Centre website.
On September 11th, KnowTheChain will publish our latest briefing on ‘risks, remediation and regulation’, which analyses five years of data from over 180 companies on their identification of risks and remediation practices. Our key findings show that:
- Only half of all companies assessed (50%) disclose carrying out a human rights risk assessment on their supply chains.
- Two thirds of companies assessed (66%) do not disclose any forced labour risks identified in their supply chains.
The briefing contributes to a growing evidence base, suggesting that companies are ill-prepared for upcoming due diligence legislation and are leaving themselves and their shareholders exposed to operational and legal risks.
The Danish Institute for Human Rights assesses what data analysis can tell us about sustainability reporting on human rights, using algorithm assisted analysis of company reports against a set of human rights indicators, along with qualitative analysis of company reporting.
A report commissioned by the Finance Against Slavery and Trafficking initiative assesses the role of financial sanctions to address forced labour and human trafficking. The study included desk research and consultations with 30 UN and government officials, financial sector experts and anti-trafficking specialists. It concludes that sanctions, comprised mostly of asset freezes and travel bans, have failed to make a significant impact due to a lack of enforcement, political will, and coverage across sectors.
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