This is a good article on the real world consequences of the ludicrous 2015 Modern Slavery Act which requires British companies to ensure there is no “exploitation” in its supply chains.
I’ve witnessed how British companies outsource this responsibility to local factory managers in Sri Lanka.
These local managers feel tremendous pressure to monitor their workforce, even beyond the shop floor, for fear of losing their contracts. And this leads to an excessive amount of surveillance, with devastating consequences for factory workers, most of whom are female.
[B]y recommending universal policies, the Modern Slavery Act fails to take into account how local suppliers around the world respond to it, even though the law effectively transfers to them the responsibility to keep the workforce free from modern slavery. It has led to a climate of suspicion and fear that exacerbates the already difficult lives of their workforce.
Like so much contemporary legislation, the Modern Slavery Act mainly exists to signal the virtues of the western professional middle-classes.
I spent two summers speaking about the Modern Slavery Act to female factory workers in Sri Lanka’s free trade zones, which are industrial areas with a number of garment factories that supply many foreign companies. I found there is intense pressure on local managers to clean up their assembly lines in such a way that the western companies which hire them could not be accused of modern slavery. The pressure to appear “clean” results in an unhealthy working environment.
It also limits women’s freedom in a number of ways. For instance, a number of women I spoke to engaged in part-time sex work to make extra money outside of their factory jobs. This work was of their own choosing – and very different to the sexual trafficking or exploitation that the Modern Slavery Act is also designed to stop. But local managers feared it would be seen by Western auditors as exploitation and threaten their contracts. As one factory manager told me: “If we do not fire part-time sex workers, our factories can get blacklisted, and our orders will be cancelled.”
This was never about the victims. As this paragraph makes clear:
More disturbingly, intentionally or not, Article 54 makes global factory managers responsible for the leisure activities of their workers and, by extension, their moral conduct.
Which is a feature, not a bug. Be it environmental legislation or the Modern Slavery Act, the goal is to force ordinary people to behave in ways which meet the approval of city-dwelling noodle-armed men and women who buy wine by the box. As I’m fond of saying, these people would be better off going to church.