Modern slavery legislation welcomed, but employer due diligence is crucial, says union

The announcement from Minister of Workplace Relations and Safety, Carmel Sepuloni, that legislation will be brought forward to help end modern slavery in New Zealand’s supply chains, has been welcomed by FIRST Union General Secretary Dennis Maga. But he cautions that employers’ ‘due diligence’ obligations have been omitted from the new legislation for now and must be included with some urgency if the policy is to be successful.

Maga says, in a statement, that his organisation has worked with Government for two years on the development of modern slavery legislation and is proud to see concrete action outlined to clean up Aotearoa’s supply chains.

“In 2021, the Global Slavery index estimated that around 8,000 people were in conditions of modern slavery in New Zealand, but exploitation and slavery in the international supply chains of Kiwi businesses has been far more prevalent.”

He says the new obligations for employers to disclose their discovery of modern slavery conditions in their supply chains are important, “but due diligence – the idea that employers must proactively investigate the various aspects of their business’ supply chain – has not yet been included in the proposed laws”.

“Due diligence would truly stop businesses from turning a blind eye, because under the proposed system, a company could simply ‘not discover’ an instance of exploitation in their supply chain, for example, and therefore not need to report it.”

Maga says FIRST Union will continue to engage on proposed legislation and will urge the Government to make due diligence a key focus in the coming months, especially since implementation of modern slavery legislation was already expected to take six months.

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