Mod­ern slav­ery a re­al­ity

Central and North Rural Weekly - - OPINION - DAVID THOM­SON Grow­com CEO

FOR most peo­ple, the idea of slav­ery sounds like some­thing from an­other cen­tury.

Yet in­sid­i­ous forms of slav­ery, bonded labour and worker ex­ploita­tion still ex­ist in many sec­tors of the econ­omy and con­cern for worker wel­fare is driv­ing a push to im­prove sup­ply chain trans­parency.

Big play­ers in the fruit and veg­etable in­dus­try, such as Per­fec­tion Fresh and Costa’s, Fresh Pro­duce Group, are large enough to be im­pacted by Mod­ern Slav­ery leg­is­la­tion in New South Wales.

The NSW Mod­ern Slav­ery law re­quires en­ti­ties with an an­nual turnover of $50 mil­lion or more to pre­pare and pub­lish a Mod­ern Slav­ery State­ment .

They are also re­quired to take ac­tions to ad­dress risks of slav­ery or worker ex­ploita­tion oc­cur­ring within their sup­ply chains.

Com­pa­nies who fail to meet these re­quire­ments (or who pro­vide false or mis­lead­ing in­for­ma­tion) face penal­ties of up to $1.1 mil­lion.

In June, a Mod­ern Slav­ery Bill was in­tro­duced into the Aus­tralian Par­lia­ment. If passed, it will re­quire en­ti­ties with an an­nual turnover of $100 mil­lion to pre­pare a Mod­ern Slav­ery State­ment each year, to be posted on an on­line public regis­ter.

Cur­rently, the fed­eral leg­is­la­tion does not con­tain penal­ties for fail­ure to com­ply but the ma­jor food re­tail­ers have in­di­cated they will par­tic­i­pate.

Both Coles and Wool­worths have also adopted re­spon­si­ble or eth­i­cal sourc­ing poli­cies.

The im­pli­ca­tion is that re­tail­ers and the larger fresh pro­duce com­pa­nies must have mech­a­nisms in place to ver­ify their sup­pli­ers em­ploy work­ers cor­rectly and have ap­pro­pri­ate poli­cies, pro­ce­dures and record-keep­ing sys­tems.

In the short term, di­rect sup­pli­ers are be­ing re­quested to demon­strate their em­ploy­ment prac­tices. In time, sec­ond and third-tier sup­pli­ers will also face greater scru­tiny.

All grow­ers must be vig­i­lant around check­ing that work­ers pro­vided through labour hire com­pa­nies re­ceive the right pay and con­di­tions.

Grow­com con­tin­ues to work closely with all seg­ments of the sup­ply chain to­wards the de­vel­op­ment of a Fair Farms train­ing pro­gram and cer­ti­fi­ca­tion scheme with the aim of help­ing grow­ers to meet these emerg­ing re­quire­ments for ver­i­fi­ca­tion and trans­parency.

Find out more about Fair Farms at www.grow­com.com.au/fair­farm­sini­tia­tive

❝ In­sid­i­ous forms of slav­ery, bonded labour and worker ex­ploita­tion still ex­ist in many sec­tors of the econ­omy, and con­cern for worker wel­fare is driv­ing a push to im­prove sup­ply chain trans­parency.

— David Thom­son

PHOTO: GROW­COM

CHAIN TRANS­PARENCY: Leg­is­la­tion is re­quir­ing larger pro­duce sup­pli­ers to demon­strate eth­i­cal labour pro­cesses.

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