The railway workers’ union wants reassurance that the new KiwiRail locomotives are not involved in slave labor in China.
Rail and Maritime Transport Union general secretary Wayne Butson said new information about Chinese company CRRC using forced labor is a major concern.
Mr Butson says the government needs to make sure KiwiRail checks its suppliers for human rights violations.
KiwiRail was a state-owned enterprise and any involvement in unethical practices would put KiwiRail and New Zealand in a compromised position, he said.
CRRC was named in February 2020 by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI) as one of 82 “foreign and Chinese companies potentially benefiting directly or indirectly from the use of Uyghur workers outside Xinjiang through abusive programs transfer of labor until 2019 ”.
KiwiRail recently ordered 10 new diesel locomotives from the company, in addition to the 63 it has purchased since 2009.
The Greater Wellington Regional Council is currently investigating whether 98 electric buses it is about to hire were involved.
The CRRC has a massive contract to build 65 metro trains for Melbourne, and government officials have been called to the Victoria Civil and Administrative Court over the slave labor issue.
Mr Butson said a statement by KiwiRail that they lacked the skills and experience to conduct human rights assessments was irresponsible.
He said the situation was now in the public domain and public concern.
“KiwiRail is a large state-owned enterprise that has the capacity – and the responsibility – to deal with any issues that could damage its reputation or that of New Zealand.”
Mr Butson said it is evident that KiwiRail needed to review its procurement policies, as the DL locomotives had already experienced major problems, such as asbestos contamination and poor performance.
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