The darker side of the Games

International coalition wants to halt exploitation of hotel and other workers during Olympics. Photo: Diego Cervo
International coalition wants to halt exploitation of hotel and other workers during Olympics. Photo: Diego Cervo
Published June 28, 2012

With the London Olympics just around the corner, the Ecumenical Council for Corporate Responsibility (EECR) is calling on U.K. companies and hotels to strengthen efforts to stop human trafficking and forced labour.

Working as part of an international coalition, which includes the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility, FairPensions and the Institute for Human Rights and Business, the EECR wrote in March to 31 Olympic Games sponsors and hotel chains that may be at a higher risk of encountering human trafficking in their premises or in their supply chains.

The letters urge companies to train staff and suppliers to recognize and avoid the trafficking of workers into slavery, monitor their supply chains and examine their recruitment practices.

Based on company responses, the coalition is producing a best-practice guide for companies and hotels.

It considers it particularly important that the hotel industry take action since hotels are increasingly reliant on migrant workers-often supplied by employment agencies-for room cleaning and kitchen work. Limited language skills and awareness of employee rights make these workers particularly vulnerable to exploitation.

There is also a risk that hotels could inadvertently find their facilities being used by the sex-trafficking industry. In recent years, there have been several reported incidents in which victims of sex trafficking have been hidden in or forced to meet clients at hotels.

The influx of extra visitors to London and other Olympic cities could exacerbate both of these problems. Some hotel chains such as the Accor Group have already developed anti-trafficking policies augmented by training programs to help staff identify and respond to potential instances of trafficking.

As for the future, the international coalition sent a letter urging the International Olympic Committee to require all Olympic corporate sponsors, suppliers, contractors and host cities to take concrete steps to eliminate the sexual exploitation of children and labour trafficking.


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