Boutique group Ethical Partners Funds Management is one of 117 signatories pushing for the NSW state government to implement its Modern Slavery Act from next year.
In an open letter to State Premier Gladys Berejiklian, the coalition of organisations, academics, lawyers and community leaders has called on her to expedite the passage of the NSW Modern Slavery Act so it can be brought into force from 1 January.
The original act was legislated in 2018.
On commencement, commercial organisations with employees in NSW and an annual turnover between $50 million and $100 million will need to submit a statement to the Anti-Slavery Commissioner, outlining the steps they have taken to reduce the risk of modern slavery across their operations and supply chains.
The NSW law is separate to the Commonwealth’s Modern Slavery Act, which entered into force from last year.
An inquiry report submitted by the standing committee on social issues had recommended the act be brought in from 2021.
“Bringing the [act] into effect represents an avoidable delay of two and a half years since the original [act] was passed and assented,” the open letter stated.
“In that time hundreds of thousands if not millions of people, both here in Australia and internationally, will have been deceived into a life of slavery. It is imperative that the act is not delayed any longer.”
The collective has expressed concerns that more people will be more vulnerable to being exploited in the current COVID-19-induced economic volatility.
It told Ms Berejiklian “if the state of NSW is serious about its commitment to ending modern slavery, the NSW Modern Slavery Act must be enforced as a matter of urgency.”
“Research is clear that with more people out of work, more people will be prepared or pressured to accept lower workplace standards,” the letter stated.
“Employers will have more bargaining power over workers. Exploitation in supply chains for goods and services is expected to rise exponentially, both here in Australia and overseas, exacerbated by freedom of movement restrictions aimed at reducing the spread of the virus, which may provide cover for some to exploit and bond people.
“It is our moral duty to demonstrate compassion and our legal duty to protect people across the globe, especially with respect to the supply chains from which Australians benefit. With the COVID-19 pandemic increasing job insecurity, fear and vulnerabilities, a significant number of people will invariably be subjected to a degradation of their rights.”
Ethical Partners Funds Management sustainability and advocacy manager Robyn Parkin is one of the signatories listed in the letter.
Other signatories included UNSW and Fairtrade Australia & New Zealand.
Sarah Simpkins is a journalist at Momentum Media, reporting primarily on banking, financial services and wealth.
Prior to joining the team in 2018, Sarah worked in trade media and produced stories for a current affairs program on community radio.
You can contact her on [email protected].