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Symposium 2010

Proposal - Stopping Labor Trafficking - what each stakeholder must do

The Challenge

At least 12 million people worldwide are trapped in conditions of forced labor, a fifth of them being exploited as a result of human trafficking. These forms of modern day slavery have become one of t ...

At least 12 million people worldwide are trapped in conditions of forced labor, a fifth of them being exploited as a result of human trafficking. These forms of modern day slavery have become one of the most profitable and most horrifying businesses in the world. Human trafficking and coerced labor are said to be the fastest growing source of income for organized crime and its third most important source after drugs and the arms trade.

Labor trafficking and forced labor cannot be stopped by any single stakeholder among the many who operate in the global economy. Each separate stakeholder group must take serious steps to reform its business practices. The good news is that we know what these steps are, we know they aren't difficult, and we know they don't add cost to businesses.
Verite's recommended key steps are:

For ‘ethical’ investors and large pension funds alike –

  • ensure that all companies in which you invest have adopted codes, investigative mechanisms, and remediation approaches such that they will not engage forced labor.
  • Communicate/engage with asset managers to ensure that they are able to communicate on your behalf to the companies in which they invest, cascading this message throughout their own investments.
  • Ensure that this message and these approaches apply not simply to manufacturing companies, but also to agriculture and real estate investments.
  • Ensure that these approaches are communicated not simply to the ‘usual suspects’ of developed world markets, but also to companies listed in and operating in Emerging Markets.

For multinationals and other ‘brands’ –

  • ensure that all suppliers adopt best practices for assessing and evaluating labor rights risk in their supply chains, starting with a geographical and sectoral assessment of risk to migrants. In other words, are you operating in a country and sector where there are known to be problems faced by migrants?
  • Build accountability and capability in your suppliers to understand and address these problems where they are likely to find them. Share information about the risks faced by migrants with suppliers, and require them to identify how they will respond to that information.
  • Ensure that migrants are a focus for social audits. In Verité’s experience the standard social audit generally misses key pieces of information – like how much migrants have paid, how much they have been overcharged, how vulnerable they are to on-going exploitation – because the assessment utilizes auditors with inadequate skills or too little time. When we investigate to identify how much suppliers should repay workers, we spend days or weeks on that problem alone, while most social audits are intended to last no more than two days to cover all issues.
  • Audit labor brokers. Make sure that brokers themselves have the management systems and ethical foundation to perform effectively and fairly. Verité has trained suppliers to audit brokers.

For governments

  • Strengthen direct hiring systems that can provide avenues for job seekers while significantly reducing vulnerability to unscrupulous brokers.
  • Facilitate transparency in the broker system by requiring brokers to demonstrate compliance with the CIETT Code of Conduct as a condition of business licensing.

For staffing agencies

  • Collaborate with Verité and Manpower through our new partnership to build a system of accountability and verification into the existing CIETT Code of Conduct.

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