Whose hands do the medical goods Australians use pass through?
This question was at the heart of a new Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation (ANMF) report, conducted in conjunction with The Australia Institute, which held there are high-levels of exploitation and human rights abuses among low-wage workers involved in the overseas production of everyday medical goods used by Australians.
The report, titled Do No Harm? Procurement of Medical Goods by Australian Companies and Government, said mounting evidence shows that the production of goods such as gloves, surgical instruments, clothing, footwear and electronics is tainted by hazardous working conditions, labour exploitation, child labour and other abuses.
ANMF federal secretary Lee Thomas said the report shows low-paid workers in parts of the Asia Pacific are paying the price for the health and wellbeing of Australian consumers.
“In manufacturing commonly-used products such as rubber gloves, instruments and garments, the report reveals that their supply chains have high levels of child labour and a shocking lack of health and safety procedures in place, with no trade union representation for these exploited workers,” Thomas said.
She said it seems Australian companies are turning a blind eye to the human rights abuses occurring in the manufacturing of their products overseas.
Among the ASX-listed healthcare companies in Australia, the report found only 2-out-of-10 have established and disclosed a supply chain or sourcing policy.
The report examined manufacturers Ansell, Lochlear, Fisher & Paykel, Nanosonics and Resmed. It found that while all of these companies are taking some steps to address abuses in their operations, none of the companies have published policies on rights of migrant workers, the use of labour hire companies, recruitment fees, written payslips and confiscation of passports. Thomas said this should be a mandatory requirement by the Australian government before companies are awarded lucrative contracts.
The ANMF called on the government to commit to a National Action Plan to implement the UN guiding principles of business and human rights and require companies to perform risk assessments and demonstrate measures that mitigate human rights abuses.
The union said Australian healthcare companies that produce or procure medical goods, as well as government, healthcare organisations and end-users, have the power and the responsibility to protect workers in the medical goods supply chains.Want to share your thoughts on this topic? Do you have an idea for a story?
Email [email protected]