British companies with global supply chains are struggling to ensure that workers are paid properly according to a new survey.
The Chartered Institute of Procurement and Supply (CIPS) surveyed 825 company managers in the UK, finding that one-fifth had discovered wage violations — employees being paid late or not receiving minimum wage — within the last two years.
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“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,” CIPS group director Cath Hill said.
Thomson Reuters Foundation reports:
“Whether a supplier is in Shenzhen (China) or Sheffield (England) businesses have an obligation to ensure that the human beings making their products are free, safe and properly paid.”
Workplace exploitation such as withholding wages can be an indicator that workers towards the bottom of often vast supply chains are being abused or facing forced labor, activists say.
“For insecure workers, the impact of multiple labor abuses left unchecked can be catastrophic, at times leading to cases of modern slavery,” Caroline Robinson, director of Focus on Labour Exploitation (FLEX), told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
On top of this, Brexit may spell further trouble for workers at lower tiers of supply chains as British companies may seek to renegotiate prices with their suppliers to offset rising costs.
Anti-Slavery International spokesman Jakub Sobik also noted that as Britain followed EU policies on protecting workers’ rights, Brexit could see some of these protections rolled back.
Last month another CIPS survey found that companies had been slow to introduce anti-slavery policies despite being compelled to do so under the UK Modern Slavery Act.
To date, just over half the about 19,000 companies in Britain required to comply with the law have issued statements, according to Transparency in the Supply Chain.
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As consumers we all need to play our part if this. We are always looking for a bargain but how often do we stop and ask ourselves how it is that this product is so cheap? Whilst we are penny-pinching to help to save up for that extra week’s holiday in sunny climes or that meal at the expensive restaurant that we know about in town do we ask ourselves how much holiday the worker in the field or factory will get or how much food he’ll be able to buy with his meagre wages (if indeed he gets any)?