Labour abuse: more to be done

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One fifth of UK supply chain managers have seen wage violations in their supply chains over the past two year, research from the Chartered Institute of Procurement & Supply has revealed.

One in ten said they have seen staff not being paid the minimum wage within the country in which the supplier is based, while 14 per cent said they had seen evidence of staff being paid late. Three per cent said they had seen both. Two per cent said they had found child labour in their supply chains.

Malory Davies, Editor.

Such things have been going on for years, so in one respect these findings are no surprise. Big brands have been caught out time and again with revelations of labour abuse in factories – notably in the far east.

Last year, “The Guardian” reported that Nike, Asics and Puma had come under fire for sourcing goods from factories in Cambodia which did not pay the local living wage, and employees were collapsing from working excessive hours in very high temperatures. Earlier this year, the “Financial Times” reported that the UNHCR had uncovered intimidation and harassment at two Samsung factories in Vietnam.

What is shocking about the CIPS survey is the scale of the problem. CIPS group director Cath Hill says: “The vast majority of British businesses would agree that short changing their employees is inexcusable, but when it comes to the workers further down their supply chain they don’t have the same level of concern. Whether a supplier is in Shenzhen or Sheffield, businesses have an obligation to ensure that the human beings making their products are free, safe and properly paid.”

Shifts in world trade, notably with Brexit, mean that organisations are facing an unparalleled level of change in their supply chains, and it is all too easy for these labour issues to be pushed down the agenda.

Organisations have made strides in dealing with these issues over the years. But this research shows that there is still more to be done.

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