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NON-PROFIT group Human Rights at Sea (HRAS) has worked with one of Australia’s largest listed companies, Wesfarmers, to improve contractual safeguards within head agreements with shipping carriers. This work was recently reported in the Wesfarmers Modern Slavery Statement 2021.

Wesfarmers’diverse business operations cover home improvement and outdoor living; apparel and general merchandise; office supplies; industrial businesses in chemicals, energy and fertilisers, and industrial and safety products and services.

For more than 12 months, Wesfarmers has closely monitored the now widely reported humanitarian risks to global shipping seafarer welfare attributable to COVID-19.

“To mitigate the risk of modern slavery in our shipping supply chains, we engaged our shipping partners on these issues,” the company said.

To address the issue of crew changes, during the year, Wesfarmers wrote to all its carriers who confirmed they are working within the International Maritime Organisation framework, together with various ILO and other maritime labour conventions, to protect the health and welfare of seafarers.

Wesfarmers engaged HRAS to advise on appropriate contract clauses to include in head agreements with carriers to further assist in safeguarding the human rights of seafarers.

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“In the 2021 financial year, Wesfarmers reviewed and enhanced the modern slavery clauses in our shipping contracts,” the company said.

“We continue to engage these partners regularly on this issue, seeking confirmation that their practices and controls are adequate.”

HRAS’ CEO David Hammond said, “Hopefully, our collaboration will affect every seafarer employed by every carrier under revised head agreements going forward”.

The majority of Wesfarmers’ operations are located in Australia and New Zealand. Wesfarmers’ divisions have team members located in Bangladesh, China, Dubai, India and Indonesia.

The group’s retail businesses do not own the factories where products are made, but instead engage third-party suppliers to manufacture the majority of products. The industrial and safety division manufactures some of its own product, including apparel, signage and gases.

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