What can you tell us about the status of human and worker rights in the supply chain?
The world’s supply chains are being severely affected by the global COVID-19 pandemic. Moreover, the threat to public health, the economic and social disruption threatens the long-term livelihoods of millions of workers. Mostly vulnerable to the worst impacts of the pandemic are the millions of workers lower down the supply chain, often women and the primary caregivers in their families and already marginalized communities. These workers are integral to the global economy, and a large part of the hidden workforce of global production and already face poverty wages, dangerous and unsafe working conditions, and without social protections, mostly.
Migrant workers in supply chains also face unique risks, as a result of inadequate and crowded living conditions, harsh containment measures, and discrimination. This includes workers in supply chains across sectors but has clearly been identified within electronics and IT. Such risks and impacts have been documented in the mining sector in Latin America as well as in electronics manufacturing in China (including the alert on the forced labor of the Uyghurs), Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam, Czech Republic, Italy, Brazil, and Mexico), according to and by numerous human rights watchdogs.
Due to worldwide restrictions and lockdowns, it has been close to impossible to verify and mitigate the negative impacts on the rights of workers. In my advisory role, I prepare companies and governmental agencies who procure products from high-risk markets to build even stricter auditing models during and post-covid, especially within the following areas: compensation, collective bargaining agreements, and cancellations during the pandemic, for instance, cancellations of wage increase and severance payments, health and safety measures with a focus on lack of protective equipment, lack of social distancing measures but also a verification of various government documents related to health and safety and generally a license to operate as fraudulent and fake documents have been produced during the pandemic to keep business running.
In fact, all licenses and certificates connected to workers’ rights produced during the pandemic should be verified and authenticated. For instance, a regular canteen approval for 150 workers during the pandemic can indicate a fraudulent transaction. It is important to be aware and alert when it comes to the possibility of increased fraud to speed up and smoothen business but at the cost of labor standards and rights.