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ITUC report exposes hidden workforce in supply chains

19 January, 2016A new report by the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) has revealed a hidden workforce of 116 million people working in the global supply chains of only 50 companies.

New research from the ITUC shows that 50 multinational companies, which include Samsung, McDonalds and Nestle, only employ six per cent of employees directly, concealing 94 per cent of workers in their supply chains.

The ITUC report, Scandal: Inside the global supply chains of 50 top companies released on the eve of the World Economic Forum in Davos exposes an unsustainable business model, with a global footprint that covers almost every country in the world and profiles 25 companies with headquarters in Asia, Europe, and the United States.

ITUC research shows:

  • The cash holdings of 25 companies of $387 billion could increase the wages in their combined hidden workforce of 71.3 million by more than $5000 for a year;
  • The combined wealth of 24 companies in the US from including Amazon, Walmart and the Walt Disney company, could buy Canada;
  • Nine companies in Asia including Foxconn, Samsung and Woolworths have a combined revenue of $705 billion, the equivalent value of the UAE;
  • Seventeen companies in Europe including Siemens, Deutsche Post and G4S have a combined revenue of $789 billion, the equivalent value of Malaysia.

“We have a model where companies can’t or won’t identify their supply chains and their hidden workforce. They preside over profits based on low wages, lobby against minimum living wages or regulations designed to ensure safe and secure work and turn a blind eye to the use of informal work or even slavery in their employ,” says ITUC general secretary, Sharan Burrow, in the report.

The research also shows the measures taken by the companies to avoid paying tax. Apple’s annual report last year reveals the company has avoided around US$57 billion in US federal income tax on its offshore reserves.

IndustriALL Global Union’s general secretary Jyrki Raina, said:

Multinational companies make massive profits, while millions of poorly paid workers in their supply chains are suffering. This is compounded by companies’ elaborate measures to avoid paying tax, further increasing inequality and undermining society. Multinationals need to be transparent about their suppliers, and guarantee living wages, trade union rights and safe workplaces throughout their global supply chains.”