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Weekly Update: 23 January 2019
Lead Story
UK: Parliamentary review of Modern Slavery Act recommends strengthening transparency requirements, including sanctions

UK Govt; FLEX; Reuters

  • Review recommends introducing sanctions for non-complying companies; creating a central repository for company statements & extending reporting requirement to govt. agencies & local councils with budgets of more than £36m
  • Independent review focussed on the "transparency in supply chains" requirement of the Act
  • Home Office is also conducting an audit of company compliance up to 31 March 2019; following this it will publish a list of non-compliant companies
Photo credit: tikitoy998

Company responses & non-responses

From Us

As world leaders gather at Davos, we highlight the importance of protecting human rights defenders: New on our blog on Australia's Modern Slavery Act: New on our blog on technology & human rights:

International

Norway's govt. pension fund excludes Chinese company due to "unacceptable risk“ of human rights abuses at Vietnam factory

Council on Ethics for Govt. Pension Fund Global; Norges Bank

  • Excluded company, Texwinca, is largest shareholder of Megawell Industries which owns factories in Vietnam where human rights abuses have been alleged
  • Includes comments from Texwinca Holdings 
German arms maker Rheinmetall plans to sue govt. over suspended export licenses to Saudi Arabia

Reuters

  • Germany halted arms exports to the kingdom in Oct 2018 following killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi
German, French & Dutch development banks' complaints panel says case filed by DRC communities against palm oil company can proceed

RIAO-RDC, FIAN Germany urgewald, CCFD-Terre Solidaire & others

  • Complaint was filed by nine DRC communities against Ferovia and its subsidiary PHC for allegedly taking their land

Africa

Internet shutdowns & social media taxes restricting citizens' digital rights across Africa

Global Voices


Zimbabwe: Access to social media platforms restored after High Court rules govt. internet shutdown was illegal

CNN

  • In bid to quell protests govt. had ordered telecommunications companies to shut down internet 
Kenya: More than 800 workers strike over unsafe working conditions at Samruddha Resources' iron ore mine

Business Daily (Kenya)

  • Article includes company comments

Americas

Independent contractors for trucking firms can take their employers to court, rules US Supreme Court 

Lexology

  • Many companies prevent their employees from suing them by forcing them into private arbitration; court ruled this could no longer be the case for trucking industry
  • Ruling could have implications for ongoing class-action lawsuits by independent contractor drivers against Amazon, Grubhub & Doordash
Honduras: After losing Fair Trade certificate, Fyffes recognses union at its Suragroh melon farm

Fresh Fruit Portal

  • Fair Trade USA had decertified Suragroh farm for not complying with labour rights standards 
UN should investigate companies' use of lawsuits to silence dissent in the US, urges global free speech alliance

Protect the Protest

  • Use of Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation (SLAPPs) particularly problematic in countries like the US with high legal fees & limited access to legal aid
  • The group filed its report with the committee reviewing US compliance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights

Asia & Pacific

Cambodia: Waste from garment factories used to fuel brick kilns, potentially harming health of workers & causing toxic emissions; fashion brands respond

Royal Holloway, University of London

  • Cambodia's brick industry also heavily linked with use of forced labour
  • We invited companies whose garment offcuts were found in Cambodian brick kilns to respond
  • Marks & Spencer, George at Asda, Walmart responded; We will include any further responses in future Updates
Bangladesh: Alleged labour abuses at factory making Spice Girls "gender justice" t-shirts & clothes for major UK retailers

Guardian (UK); Thomson Reuters Foundation

  • Article includes comments from Marks & Spencer, Mothercare & Tesco
Business school professor censured for criticising Hindustan Unilever on its environmental record, raising concerns among civil society

Human Rights & Business Network India; Counterview; The Quint

  • Professor suggested the school disinvite company from student recruitment event
  • We invited Hindustan Unilever to respond; response provided 
Laos: Civil society condemns imprisonment of villagers who protested loss of land awarded to rubber company

Radio Free Asia

  • Relatives allege the imprisoned men are malnourished & have been tortured

Europe & Central Asia

Romania: Court halts construction of Deva gold mine for not complying with environmental law

Mining Watch Romania

  • Local communities had previously raised concerns about mine’s impacts on nearby villages & forests
Finland: Restaurant owners found guilty of human trafficking & exploiting Nepali migrant workers

Nepali Times


UK: Ethnic minorities face 'shocking' discrimination in labour market, study reveals

Guardian (UK)

  • Applicants from minority ethnic backgrounds had to send 80% more applications to get a positive response from an employer than a white person of British origin

Middle East & North Africa

UAE: Abu Dhabi court intervenes to pay back-wages of 400 migrant workers, some of whom spent weeks without food

Khaleej Times


Jordan: Labour law amendments seek to resolve worker disputes & curb abuse

Jordan Times

Company responses
Non-responses

Announcements

First Latin American Conference on Business & Human Rights - Call for Paper (Deadline for abstracts: 25 Jan 2019)

EU Technical Expert Group invites comments on its report on climate-related disclosures (deadline 1 Feb)

Events

Forthcoming events: 
  • EU Commission’s Sustainable Corporate Governance Conference (Brussels, 24 Jan)
  • Winter Academy: The UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights: From Theory to Practice (28 Jan-1 Feb, The Hague)
  • Webinar on Investor Responsibility to Respect Human Rights (1 Feb, Webinar)
  • The state of corporate sustainability disclosure under the EU NFR Directive (8 Feb, Brussels)
  • 2019 OECD Forum on Due Diligence Guidance in the Garment and Footwear Sector (13-14 Feb, Paris)
  • Shared Space Under Pressure: Business Support for Civic Freedoms and Human Rights Defenders (26 Feb, Oxford)
Details of these & other future events can be found here. Please send relevant event information to Maja Janjic: janjic@business-humanrights.org.

Jobs

Vacancies at the Business & Human Rights Resource Centre: Other vacancies:
Further details & other recently posted jobs available here. To submit a new job announcement in business & human rights please go here.
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