Major property companies are relying on outdated mechanisms to pick up underpayments and labour abuse in their cleaning contracts, raising risks for investors, according to a new report.
The Australasian Centre for Corporate Responsibility has found the largest listed retail and property owners, Charter Hall, Dexus, GPT, Mirvac, Scentre Group, Stockland and Vicinity Centres, are largely doing the minimum to manage labour risks as part of modern slavery obligations and are relying too much on audits and whistleblower hotlines.
Examining their first round of modern slavery reports, the ACCR report said while the companies were good at identifying which areas in their supply chains were high-risk, these efforts were not translating to directly engaging with workers or plans for actions in response to breaches.
ACCR workers’ rights director and report author Katie Hepworth said this could lead to a higher risk of undetected labour abuse, which had intensified for cleaners during the pandemic.
“What we found from that is all companies are engaged in cosmetic compliance and the illusion of taking action,” she said.
“But we know that in decades of research in other supply chains only due diligence that gives a formal role for workers will be effective.”
The report follows a recent analysis of the UK’s Modern Slavery Act that found the law was “failing to drive systemic corporate action to expunge forced labour, even in high-risk sectors”.
Commercial cleaners are deemed a high risk of modern slavery due to aggressive price competition, high incidents of underpayments and about 85 per cent of the workforce in CBD office buildings or retail malls being international students or migrants, who are considered vulnerable workers.
The original full article can be found at afr.com