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Jan 26, 2016
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Supply chain: 116 million 'hidden' workers in the service of major groups

Jan 26, 2016

H&M, Gap Inc., Li&Fung, Nike and P&G are among 50 major international corporations accused by the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) of relying for up to 94% on a large number of 'hidden' workers, who do not appear in the corporations’ figures but still work for them!

Gap Inc. claims it employs a staff of 150,000, but according to ITUC they have one million hidden workers. Another 1.6 million must be added to the 132,000 official workers at H&M. And the 26,000 workers declared by Li&Fung appear actually to be as many as 3.75 million. The report also points the finger at Nike (48,000 official workers and 2.5 million hidden ones) and Procter & Gamble (118,000 vs 8 million), and mentions Carrefour, Wal-mart and Tesco too.

"The 50 corporations listed in this report could act to change world trade. They have the resources for it, as well as the clout," stated ITUC. "The workers pay the price for this scandal: slavery, casual work, short-term and irregular contracts, low salaries, work with dangerous chemicals, forced overtime etc. All of this is part and parcel of a huge worldwide outrage, driven nowadays by the greed of corporations in their perennial quest for profit and shareholder value."

ITUC is also trying to show how, on the part of consumers, there is an expectation for change. In a survey carried out in France, Germany, the UK and the US, 55% of interviewees reckoned that major corporations cannot be trusted, and 25% of them do not know whether they are reliable. And to emphasise the distance between such hidden workers and the top management, the report mentions the latter's salaries. The CEOs of P&G, Nike, Wall-Mart and Gap Inc. are among the top 15.

The trade union organisation also reported a growing awareness among the workers. In a survey carried out in Indonesia, Turkey and the Philippines, 78% of interviewees think that a minimum salary ought to be introduced within the supply chain. Also, 80% of them believe that the race for profits goes to the detriment of workers' safety.

Nowadays, 58% of countries, and notably the major manufacturing ones, are bypassing labour laws in the case of some professional categories.  In addition, 70% of workers do not have the right to strike, and 60% of them do not have petition rights. 

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