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Western Australia accepts our call to action to fight against forced labor

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Forced LaborLaw & PolicyOther slavery

Western Australian Minister for Industrial Relations Bill Johnston, received a petition calling on the Western Australian Parliament to pass the changes in the Industrial Relations Legislation Amendment Bill 2020 which will bring Western Australia in line with the requirements of the International Labour Organisation’s Forced Labour Protocol of 2014 (P029) and will allow the Commonwealth to ratify the Protocol. 

The ILO has identified eight fundamental Conventions, covering subjects that are considered to be fundamental principles and rights at work. Protocol 29 is part of one of these eight Conventions specifically designed to reduce the number of people trapped on farms, in mines, factories, restaurants, and homes where unpaid wages, forced labor, and modern slavery often flourishes. It is an addition to the 1930 Forced Labour Convention Australia has already committed to. The Convention’s purpose is to suppress the use of forced or compulsory labor in all its forms. 

At the presentation Mr.Johnston said: 

It’s remarkable that over 100,000 global citizens, including almost 13,000 Australians, have signed this petition to support the global fight against modern slavery.

This demonstrates how crucial it is that the McGowan Government’s Industrial Relations Legislation Amendment Bill 2020 swiftly passes Parliament.

The important Bill will help better protect vulnerable workers, modernize our employment laws, and bring Western Australia in line with the requirements of the International Labour Organization’s Forced Labour Protocol of 2014.

The petition was organized by Freedom United and our partners Be Slavery Free alongside international partners. According to the Global Slavery Index, more than 40 million people are trapped in modern slavery, with approximately 25 million in forced labor. Australia imports approximately $18 billion worth of products with the risk of slavery in the supply chain. 

 Carolyn Kitto from Be Slavery Free says:  

These changes to the Industrial Relations laws will send a clear message that Western Australia is a place where people know their work is valued. It will send a message to businesses that there is a level playing field in Western Australia, where you get ahead by doing the right-thing. Forced labour is crime in Australia’s Criminal Code. More than the law, is it in our Australian values and culture to give people ‘a-fair-go.

The changes to the laws also fix anomalies that sanctioned injustice in the past. When WA’s Industrial Relations laws were first legislated in 1912, and revised in 1941, horticultural and domestic workers received no protections. This particularly impacted Indigenous Western Australians, denying them access to basic freedoms and protection from the law. 

Owen Whittle, Acting Secretary, Unions WA says: 

During much of the period, Indigenous West Australians were effectively enslaved across much of regional WA, with men working, often entirely unpaid, as station hands and women in domestic work and too often subjected to sexual harassment or rape. Today WA is the only State or Territory in Australia with such a grossly unfair legal barrier to protection for domestic and horticultural workers.

Australia is urged to get behind the Convention, in step with forty-five other countries that have already signed, including New Zealand.

The petition comes at a critical time as more of the world’s poor are being made vulnerable to exploitative work. The economic recession caused by coronavirus is exacerbating human trafficking as it has shrunk formal employment and increased irregular global migration. 

Stay tuned as we continue our advocacy by signing our P29 campaign. 

Chip in and help end modern slavery once and for all.