February 20, 2018 CHTCS

Quarterly Headlines Winter 2018

2017 Stop Slavery Awards led by Adidas

The annual Stop Slavery Award was awarded to four winners at the 2017 Trust Conference. The award was led by Adidas with additional recognition as an “Outstanding Achiever” for excelling in every judging category. The international fashion retailer C&A was awarded for going beyond compliance standards in all categories. Through the “Bright Future” program, The Co-operative Group offers employment opportunities for victims of modern day slavery and was honored for having excelled in business partnership engagement and for having demonstrated excellence in supplier engagement and capacity building. The major U.S. technology company, Intel Corporation, was awarded for its outstanding work in demonstrating and implementing innovation across its programs against child sexual exploitation and refusing new business to suppliers who have failed to implement measures to combat slavery.

The Stop Slavery Award was launched by the Thomson Reuters Foundation. The initiative recognizes companies that have taken concrete steps to eradicate forced labor from their supply chains. Short-listed nominee candidate companies included: Aldi UK, Barclays Bank Plc, CH2M, Fortescue Metals Group, Marks & Spencer, Marshall Plc, MGM China Holdings Ltd, Nestle’ S.A., Shiva Hotels, Waitrose, and Walmart Stores, Inc.

Accord on Fire and Building Safety Reaches Important Milestones

The Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh is one of three initiatives launched in response to the Rana Plaza building collapse, the deadliest disaster in history of the global garment industry, in which 1,134 workers were killed. The Accord publishes a Quarterly Aggregate Report as part of its commitment to transparency and accountability. As an overview of implementation of the Accord program and remediation progress of participating Ready-Made Garment factories, the October 2017 report details several important milestones:

  • Overall remediation progress is at 79%
  • 100% remediation from initial inspections at 107 factories
  • 90% or more remediation at 603 factories
  • Safety Committee training completed at 132 factories
  • 141 health and safety complaints resolved

Clothing Company Zara is Publicly Outed

Turkish shoppers in Istanbul, Turkey discovered unusual notes sewn into their newly purchased Zara brand clothing items. The fashion retailer was on its heels when their garments made by Turkish garment workers from Bravo Teksil placed tags into the garments reading, “I made this item you are going to buy, but I didn’t get paid for it.” Although Zara had paid the factory and fulfilled the contract, workers have not received payment since the factory abruptly shut down a year ago, when the owner vanished with all the missing funds. After widespread media reports, Zara’s parent company Inditex has launched a fund to help compensate the unpaid workers.

Slave Labor Lawsuit Against Canadian Mining Company Going to Trial

In 2014, three Eritrean men filed a civil lawsuit before the Supreme Court of British Columbia in Vancouver against Nevsun Resources Limited over the use of slave labor at Nevsun’s Bisha mine in Eritrea. Additional civil claims, with 51 more plaintiffs, were filed in 2016 and 2017. The case alleges that Nevsun engaged two Eritrean state-run contractors and the Eritrean military to build the mine’s facilities and that the companies and military deployed forced labour under abhorrent conditions. The case also alleges that Nevsun expressly or implicitly approved the use of conscripted labor, a practice alleged to be so widespread that it constitutes crimes against humanity. Nevsun, which owns a majority share of the Bisha mine, is headquartered in Vancouver and is incorporated under the laws of British Columbia.

The lawsuit advances ground-breaking claims based on the international law prohibitions on forced labour, slavery, torture and crimes against humanity. It is one of the first human rights lawsuits in Canada to assert claims based directly on international law.

Draft DHS Regulation Will Excise The H-1B Spousal Visa

In an effort to curb an estimated 450,000-900,000 foreign professionals in U.S.-based jobs through the H-1B visa temporary work program, a draft regulation will remove the accompanying spousal privilege. Most H1-B visas are dedicated to lower-tier computer and software experts, but under the H1-B program professional may include foreign non-tech workers including: foreign pharmacists, therapists, industrial designers, lawyers, editors, teachers, doctors, professors, and lab technicians. Participants in the H1-B program may apply for green card status or a Permanent Resident Card allowing them to live and work permanently in the United States. Most workers renew their temporary work visas in one to three year increments for continued status while awaiting their green card.

Under current temporary worker legislation, certain spouses of H1-B visa holders are awarded a H-4 visa as dependents of H1 visa holders. The spouses can file for employment authorization and also apply to receive a green card. Lobbying firms representing companies with huge demand for cheap white-collar guest workers like Facebook, Twitter, Microsoft, and Amazon are denouncing the proposed legislation and are preparing lawsuits for discrimination.

Migrants Are Being Sold at Live Auctions in Libya

After cell phone video footage of a live slavery auction in Libya surfaced last November, the world is outraged to learn from a CNN published report that the auctions continue to sell migrants as slaves. With hundreds of thousands of migrants traveling through Libya each year en route to Europe, many don’t reach their destination. Originating from central and eastern Africa, the migrants succumb to the dangers of the smuggling networks. Smugglers often victimize the migrants with torture, extortion, detainment, killing or even slavery. The slavery auctions are recompense for missing smuggling fees with each human sold into forced labor conditions to the highest bidder at an average of $400 each.

The Libyan government has launched an investigation into slave auctions, but the fear in the human rights community is change will be slow, and the slavery auctions will continue as long as human smuggling of migrants continues to swell.

CTPAT Gets New Logo and Prepares for New Updates

At the Annual Northeast Cargo Symposium held by the Coalition of New England Companies for Trade (CONECT) in Providence, R.I. last November, the Customs Trade Partnership Against Terrorism or CTPAT announced it is making more than just aesthetic changes to the program. In addition to a new logo, a red, white, and blue globe made of interlocking pieces, and changing the spelling, with no hyphen in its name or acronym, the program will be implementing a new “best practices” framework. The framework is still in development but will include five elemental changes:

  1. Senior management support, including the participating organization’s culture and management philosophy regarding security and compliance
  2. Innovative application of technology, as appropriate for the company’s size and resources
  3. Documented processes, including consistency and continuity over time
  4. Checks, balances, and auditing, including such areas as accountability and testing
  5. Evidence of implementation; that is, proof that plans have been put into practice and are being maintained

The CTPAT was established in 2001 to prevent terrorists from carrying out attacks on the United States via international networks. Program participation is a voluntary public-private partnership with 11,000-plus members, including importers, exporters, surface carriers, customs brokers, marine terminal operators, freight consolidators, and other entities. About one-third of CTPAT members are small and medium-sized companies with 70 employees or less.

Alphabet (Google) and Apple Ace Enough Project’s 2017 Ranking

The newly released rankings report by Enough Project examined 20 of the largest companies, as defined by market capitalization, in two of the industries which consume the most tin, tungsten, and gold – consumer electronics and jewelry. With especially high marks, Apple and Alphabet scored 102% and 85% respectively. The consumer electronics company efforts were assessed for progress on sourcing conflict-free minerals from Congo. Conversely, jewelry companies faired much poorer scores for sourcing of “blood diamonds” and conflict gold from Congo. The department chain store Nieman Marcus scored 0% with Helzberg Diamonds at 2% and Sears rounding out the bottom at four percent. As a whole the 10 consumer electronics companies scored better than the jewelry companies.