Workin’ on a building

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.


12 thoughts on “Workin’ on a building

  1. There is a universal truth that we can thank the great and late Cecil Rhodes for, as quoted by the same author as the article in the OP:

    What views on white supremacy did Rhodes hold?

    “I say the natives are like children. They are just emerging from barbarism.


    Treat the natives as a subject people as long as they continue in a state of barbarism and communal tenure; be the lords over them, and let them be a subject race.”

  2. What views on white supremacy did Rhodes hold?

    As I’ve pointed out before, there is a strong whiff of neo-colonialism among much of the do-gooder legislation emerging from the west right now.

  3. “there is a strong whiff of neo-colonialism among much of the do-gooder legislation emerging from the west right now.”

    Behind the scenes elitist owners, using a state apparatus for their greater good.

    Twas ever thus!

    Whilst I may well be at the opposite end of the ideological spectrum from the secret and non-secret societies Round Tables, Chatham House, CFR and the likes that were born as a legacy of Cecil Rhodes. I do get it that back in the day the intent of what he was doing and what he established was for all intents and purposes a damn good thing.

    Forming a society to advance the British Empire, bring the US back into the fold, use Oxford as the intellectual brains trust and the aristocracy as the financiers, 9.5 out of 10.

    Like Carrol Quigley in Tragedy & Hope my only criticism of him at that time would be his need for secrecy for his inner core.

  4. We have slavery here.

    If I am unemployed and can’t get a job the government forces me to work for a third party company. I don’t get paid for that. I don’t get minimum wage I just get the dole money for a 30+ hour week.

    If I refuse I lose my dole money, if I upset the third party I lose my dole money.

    This dole money is the money I paid into a social fund just in case I became unemployed. Now I have to be a trained monkey and work to get my due.

  5. “This dole money is the money I paid into a social fund just in case I became unemployed.”

    Anyone under the age of about 80 who ‘really’ believes that is either incredibly dim or had their eyes and ears closed all their lives. In the early days of ‘National Insurance’ it was reasonable for the masses to think like that, but Bevan let the cat out of the bag over 70 years ago…….

  6. I recently changed my energy supplier, and while it exhorts me to enter my meter readings on the website, the website refuses to accept them.

    Meanwhile, displayed prominently on the right hand side of the website, they proudly advertise their “Modern Slavery Statement”.

    Sums it up really – neglect the core business, get the politics bit right.

  7. We on the right are beginning to imitate the left. Imputing bad motives such as virtue signalling, do-goodery and naivety to the left, even when it’s true, doesn’t get us very far.
    The Modern Slavery Act is flawed. Show me a statute that isn’t. But it’s surely doing more good than evil. More virtuous than virtue signalling.
    In any event, it would be very bad optics for the right to try total repeal, which would repel all moderates (yes there are a few left) in the West.

  8. But it’s surely doing more good than evil.

    Considering the compliance costs, I doubt it.

  9. NPR’s Planet Money did an excellent series a couple of years ago where they looked at how a T-Shirt is made from soup- to-nuts. It included a couple of episodes looking at the garment industry in Bangladesh and Columbia and why Bangladesh is stuck in the T-Shirt industry.

    It should be required listening for the left because it makes clear (1) how much better “sweat shops” are than the alternative and (2) how not allowing evil capitalist westerner companies to own their own factories has kept them stuck in the low level garment industry.

    It’s a great teaching resource if there are any economics teachers reading this because it also looks at the logistics as the T-Shirt goes from country to country before ending up back in the USA where it was designed.

  10. Isn’t this really about increasing the cost of offshore manufacturing in order to make domestic labour comparatively more attractive?

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