Businesses procuring garments from suppliers must act as “responsible customers”, always driving labour standards up, particularly during this pandemic, the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH) said today.
Responding to media reports that workers in factories supplying some major supermarket chains and fashion brands are being exploited, IOSH has reiterated calls that purchasers avoid unrealistic deadlines and late changes to requirements and expect to pay reasonable rates for their orders and allow flexibility around delivery.
The reports of bad practices – which IOSH says are not uncommon – claimed that some workers are being forced to stay overnight to complete orders, with some sleeping on factory floors.
“Everyone will be shocked by these reports of poor working conditions for garment workers – regrettably, bad practices have also been reported in other countries across the world, including the UK,” said Richard Jones, Head of Policy and Regulatory Engagement at IOSH.
“Organisations procuring garments from suppliers need to make sure they act as ‘responsible customers’, demonstrating leadership, vigilance and support. Good health and safety is fundamental to supply chain management and maintaining a social license to operate.”
IOSH is calling for strong action against modern slavery, including in its 2019 white paper, Tackling modern slavery together: the roles of governments, employers, professionals and the public. This paper highlights public opinion poll findings showing strong support (87%) that major retailers and manufacturers should help their suppliers to prevent modern slavery and 83% believing employers should provide worker training on prevention.
These recent media reports come just a few weeks after the UK Government announced tough new measures to tackle modern slavery in supply chains, including extending the requirement to report on steps taken to prevent modern slavery in supply chains to public sector organisations with a budget of £36 million or more.
When these measures were announced, IOSH welcomed them but said more action was needed.
Further improvements IOSH has called for include: removing the ability for organisations to simply say they have taken no steps to tackle modern slavery in their supply chains; progressively reducing the £36m threshold for reporting; and extending the licensing powers of the Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority to other at-risk sectors.