OFF THE BOOKS, Major companies outsource their workforce
The International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) has published a report (1) exposing the global supply chains of 50 major companies who hold a combined wealth of $3.4 trillion, equivalent to that of 100 nations.
What is revealed is that they directly employ just six per cent of the 125 million workers who produce and distribute their products. This allows the companies to have at their disposal a massive convenient workforce that they can exploit such that workers don't even get paid their moderate minimum wage demands of $117 a month in Phnom Penh; $250 in Jakarta and $345 in Manila.
Many of those who are exploited work in the farming, agriculture and food sectors.
Food and general retailer Carrefour directly employs 380,000 workers but also has 1.1 million supply chain workers. In 2004 The Guardian uncovered a prawn farming company in Carrefour's supply chain that had links to slave labour in Burma. Carrefour dropped the supplier but previous company audits had failed to uncover any problems. Coca-Cola plays a significant role across the agriculture supply chain. It has set targets' for workers' rights across its operations. It claims to conduct 2,000 annual independent audits. Not one is publicly disclosed.
Primark undertook two audits at the Rana Plaza textile factory complex in Bangladesh but failed to spot the safety problems that caused the building to collapse killing over 1,100 people. It would have been more except banking employees, who worked in the complex had refused to work there; using their collective power as trade unionists to stop themselves being slaughtered.
Clearly, as the TUC’s Owen Tudor has noted in response to a new report from Sheffield University (2), audits exist as a means of "giving rich multinational enterprises cover for their activities, 'showing' consumers in the West that the goods they sell have been ethically produced."
Tudor contends that the only real way to audit a workplace is by the workforce day by day. For that to happen workers' need the power and experience of an independent trade union. That is not going to be easily achievable as in 58 per cent of countries across the globe groups of workers are excluded from labour law, 70 per cent of countries have workers who have no right to strike and 60 per cent of countries deny or restrict workers collective bargaining rights.
Consequently, when workers take action they need international support. US restaurant company Phillips Seafood processes seafood products, including Indonesian crabmeat. This is produced at the company factory in Lampung, Indonesia where 60 per cent of the majority female workforce have no permanent jobs and rely on text messages to find out if they are working. In autumn 2015, 205 long serving employees had their jobs outsourced to private homes at much reduced pay rates.
With the assistance of the IUF these workers have been heroically fighting for their jobs back and the ending of outsourcing. The company has even tried to set up a management union, a move that appears to have badly backfired.
Trade unionists are asked to send a message to Phillips Seafood (4) by accessing www.iuf.org/cgi-bin/campaigns/show_campaign.cgi?c=956
1) SCANDAL - Inside the global supply chains of 50 top companies - a Frontlines Report 2016
4) For more on Phillips Seaford go to:- http://www.iuf.org/w/?q=node/4681