Report: Millions of ‘Hidden Workers’ Used in Company Supply Chains

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A new report states more than 100 million “hidden workers” exist within the global supply chains of 50 major corporations, including McDonald’s, Apple, Coca-Cola Company, Johnson & Johnson and Wal-Mart.

The International Trade Union Confederation looked at 50 of the world’s largest companies — nine of them based in Asia, 17 in Europe and 24 in the United States. “Scandal: Inside the global supply chains of 50 top companies,” released by ITUC, said 6% of the workforces for these companies are “direct” employees. The other 94% of the workforce are classified as a “hidden workforce,” which are people working off the record or providing undeclared work somewhere in the supply chain.

The 50 companies included in the report have a combined revenue of $3.4 trillion and use a “hidden workforce” of 116 million in their supply chains. The report also cited labor abuses like slavery, low wages, unsafe working conditions and forced overtime in these companies’ supply chains and called for reforms to business models.

Apple, for instance, has 98,000 employees but a hidden workforce in its supply chain of 2.3 million, the report stated. ITUC also said Apple has been criticized for working conditions in its supply chain, such as 60-hour work weeks, child labor and worker abuse.

“Apple has addressed some of these issues, but both internal and external evaluations consistently reveal insufficient wages, excessive working hours, forced labour and migrant worker vulnerability and the lack of worker presence on health and safety committees,” the report said.

McDonalds has 420,000 employees and more than 2.8 million hidden workers, and Nike has 330,000 employees and 2.5 million hidden workers in its supply chain, ITUC said in its report.

ITUC also said there is widespread support for change. It cited a global poll it conducted that showed 94% of people see fair labor rights as a foundation for global trade and more than 90% said there should be more stringent rules to hold companies accountable for how workers in their supply chains are treated and paid. Additionally, 80% called for an increase in minimum wages around the globe.

“Sixty per cent of global trade in the real economy is dependent on the supply chains of our major corporations, which uses a business model based on exploitation and abuse of human rights in supply chains,” Sharan Burrow, general secretary of the ITUC, said in a statement.

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