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Supply Chain

U.S. Representatives Propose Supply Chain Law Following Slavery Report

U.S. Representatives Carolyn Maloney and Chris Smith proposed legislation requiring public companies with global receipts of more than $100 million to disclose any measures to prevent human trafficking, slavery or child labor in their supply chains as part of their annual reports. By Patrick Burnson

This year’s U.S. State Department 2015 Trafficking in Persons Report places a special emphasis on human trafficking in the global marketplace.

It highlights the hidden risks that workers may encounter when seeking employment and the steps that governments and businesses can take to prevent trafficking, including a demand for transparency in global supply chains

As reported by the Wall Street Journal, slavery and human trafficking in the supply chain have become a greater concern for companies.

Slavery is reportedly common in the seafood sector, where the Associated Press tracked fish from a slave boat to the supermarket, and more recently used space photography to find an alleged slave boat in Papua New Guinea.

“Some companies may participate knowingly in human trafficking to pad the bottom line; others are willfully ignorant of where and how their inexpensive products are made; and still others simply do not know,” said Mr. Smith, in a statement. Mr. Smith wrote the legislation mandating the report on human trafficking.

“There is no question that many goods being sold to American consumers are produced with slave labor, and we have a moral obligation to do something about it,” said Rep Carolyn B. Maloney. “This legislation simply requires businesses to publicly disclose what actions they have voluntarily undertaken to remove labor abuses from their supply chains.”

The bill came hours after the release of the State Department report, which upgraded Cuba and Malaysia’s status but left Thailand at the lowest level after it received a downgrade last year.

Governments in the lowest tier could see the U.S. government withhold non-humanitarian, non-trade-related foreign assistance.

These countries could also see the U.S. oppose giving them aid through international financial institutions like the World Bank.

When announcing the report’s release, Secretary of State John Kerry pointed to an article the New York Times in which a young Cambodian boy who crossed the border into Thailand on the promise of a construction job, but found himself held by armed men and pressed into service on the sea, shackled by neck to a boat.

“If that isn’t slavery and imprisonment, I don’t know what is,” said Mr. Kerry, according to published remarks.

Slavery in the Supply Chain Still a Major Concern
Thailand not adequately addressing human trafficking

The U.S. Department of State maintained Thailand’s Tier 3 ranking, the lowest category, in its annual Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report, which was released this week.

Download: Trafficking in Persons Report 2015

The ranking accurately reflects Thailand’s lagging efforts to combat human trafficking and will incentivize the Thai government to make greater strides in the coming year, according to a global coalition of 25 human rights, environmental and labor groups, who sent an open letter to U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry today.

“The Thai government seems to be realizing it must address its significant labor trafficking problem or face economic consequences,” said Abby McGill, campaigns director for the International Labor Rights Forum.

“Unfortunately, the changes it has made so far are largely cosmetic. We hope this decision will underscore the urgent need to reform immigration and labor laws so they uphold the human rights of migrant workers, one of the populations in Thailand most vulnerable to human trafficking.”

The role of Flags of Convenience is also being examined by humanitarian agencies.

“Flags of convenience are a huge problem that enable many illegal practices, including forced labor,” McGill said in an interview with Supply Chain Management Review.

“They allow ship operators acting illegally to be accountable to literally no one and make it much more difficult for workers on fishing vessels who have been trafficked to find assistance. But Thailand’s problem is slightly different in that they are not a flag of convenience, but are having trouble getting vessels in their fleet to actually register. We strongly support regulation and strict oversight of fishing vessels as a way to avoid the worst abuses and bring criminals to justice.”

There are an estimated 3-4 million migrant workers in Thailand, many of whom labor in the most dangerous jobs in Thailand’s booming export economy. Several high-profile global media exposés last year brought significant international attention to the problem of human trafficking among migrant workers in Thailand’s fishing industry in particular.

The European Union issued Thailand a “yellow card” for its failure to adequately monitor its fishing industry in April, which gave the Thai government six months to improve oversight, or face sanctions.

The letter also condemned Thailand’s use of criminal defamation to prosecute journalists and human rights defenders who uncover cases of human trafficking, claiming such prosecutions inhibit the ability of victims to speak out and seek justice.

This month, Phuketwan journalists Alan Morison and Chutima Sidasathian, and migrant rights defender Andy Hall, faced court proceedings in separate cases related to accusations of human trafficking, the former in the seafood sector and the latter at a pineapple canning facility.

“While there have recently been positive moves forward, Thailand has still not yet demonstrated enough political will, translated into effective implementation of actions, to change the systemic nature of its human trafficking,” said Sein Htay, president of the Migrant Workers Rights Network. (other Networks)

“It’s important that government, industry and civil society all work together to push the Thai government toward greater enforcement against the drivers of human trafficking, and accountability for the people guilty of supporting this egregious form of exploitation.”

Download the Guide: Tackling Modern Slavery in Supply Chains

2 Comments (displaying chronologically) Post a comment
Posted by Giorgio Canavese  on  07/30  at  03:22 AM

As I already wrote it is a problem of “Ethical Supply Chain” but not only. Yes first of all there is the respect for human beings just like us, but also for a correct view of the market there is not freedom of competition without “rules”. Governments of the countries of origin but first of all of the countries where there are the final markets have the duty to regulate this aspects and companies have the possibility and therefore the obligation to collaborate on this way and not only “formally”. Tax and duties for the countries that don’t collaborate and for the inbound supply chains not certified. We cannot in the same time accept slavery and destroy the economies our ours countries as a result of a misinterpreted concept of liberalism.

Posted by Peter Burgess  on  07/29  at  05:13 PM

The matter of human trafficking is not going to be solved by ‘reports’ and journalists talking about the subject for a few days. The problem is much more profound and a reflection of the systemic dysfunction of our modern complex global socio-enviro-economic system. The dominant focus of decision making in this system is all about profit and making money, and the ideology of much of the private sector is for government to simply get out of the way.Bottom line, most governments do not have the money or much inclination to make ending human traffic a priority ... or any of many other issues. Meanwhile, huge amounts of money are being made ... enough for law-breakers anti-social networks to influence the way the system works in all sorts of nefarious ways.

Peter Burgess
Founder CEO,

About the author
Patrick Burnson, Executive Editor
Patrick Burnson is executive editor for Logistics Management and Supply Chain Management Review magazines and web sites. Patrick is a widely-published writer and editor who has spent most of his career covering international trade, global logistics, and supply chain management. He lives and works in San Francisco, providing readers with a Pacific Rim perspective on industry trends and forecasts. You can reach him directly at [email protected]

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