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Michael Walker

An underlying assumption of employment law, indeed law in general, is that it is enacted in a milieu in which actors want to follow the law or, if they don’t, that the state has adequate means of enforcement. Increasingly this assumption is proving untrue, resulting in organisations paring back employment conditions and states seemingly impotent to prevent it. There are well-documented problems in supply chains in which lead companies meet all their legal obligations but the companies to whom they subcontract work are less scrupulous about it. This happens both with respect to global supply chains, where production is outsourced to countries that do not enforce labour standards, and even in domestic supply chains. Industries such as horticulture and cleaning have been found to have horrendous working conditions far below minimum legal standards yet fixing the problem has proven notoriously difficult as these workers are not unionised and labour inspectors do not have the resources to investigate their way through multiple layers of subcontractors to find the right person to prosecute.

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Michael D. Hutt, Crina O. Tarasi and Beth A. Walker