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Anti-trafficking coalition call for more action to combat modern slavery

Contributor:
Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

New Zealand’s Human Trafficking and Research Coalition (HTRC) call for more action to be taken against modern slavery in New Zealand’s garment sector. The call comes in response to research published last week by coalition member, Tearfund, on New Zealand’s fashion industry.

The report explores the responses of major local and international fashion brands in New Zealand to the challenges of modern slavery, climate change and COVID-19.

The fashion industry is in the top five global industries at risk of modern slavery. The report outlines that though there has been improvement from the industry, key measures that deliver outcomes for workers remain at low levels.

The HTRC Chair Rebecca Kingi says that the research illustrates New Zealand has further to go as a country when it comes to tackling modern slavery in our supply chains:

"It is not controversial to have a status quo where people are paid fairly, can work safely and are not exploited for the profit or gain or another."

"We know that garments are a high-risk import for New Zealand in terms of goods that could be linked to modern slavery. As the report shows, there is more work to be done in the fashion industry to combat exploitation in supply chains, and New Zealand companies and brands have a crucial part to play."

From the findings of the research, Tearfund has produced a guide which assigns brands an ethical rating to assist New Zealanders making clothing purchases. The report outlines the importance of transparency when it comes to company practice so that consumers can make informed choices.

The Coalition are concerned that, unlike many countries, New Zealand has no legal framework to support this transparency, such as a requirement for entities to publish a

modern slavery statement disclosing risk of and measures to combat modern slavery in their supply chains. Nor has there been a commitment to introduce such legislation from the Government. This is despite strong calls from the business community and public for modern slavery legislation.

Kingi says "The Coalition implore the government to introduce robust legislation that would require New Zealand entities to undertake due diligence and report on the steps they take to combat modern slavery in their supply chains"

"We believe that as well as business, our government has an important role and responsibility to act. New Zealand has not been a leader on the international stage when it comes to tackling this grave human rights abuse, but we have a chance to turn this around."

Earlier this year the Minister for Workplace Relations Michael Wood confirmed he had convened an advisory group to formally advise the Government on the best way of taking possible legislation forward.

"We acknowledge the step taken by the Minister but he must not take his foot off the pedal with this vital work. COVID-19 has increased risks to both workers and business. The introduction of modern slavery legislation in New Zealand is an important piece for us to build back better, for the sustainability of our business community and for the workers suffering incredible hardship due to the pandemic and the exploitative conditions they face."

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