There are serious shortcomings in the realization of labour rights in the production of more than ten products included in the Finnish maternity package. The problems are rooted in the tendering criteria used by Kela, the Social Insurance Institution of Finland, which instead of responsibility emphasize the cheapest price.
A report, published today by Finnwatch, provides for the first time comprehensive information on where the products in the maternity package are made in, and in what kind of working conditions. The report is based on a survey and analysis of social responsibility audit reports collected from the companies supplying products for the maternity package.
– Most of the products purchased for Kela's maternity package are made in risk countries, where there is an increased risk of violations of labour rights during production, says Sonja Vartiala, Executive Director of Finnwatch.
The most common production country for maternity package products is China, followed by Pakistan, India and Bangladesh. Serious problems such as illegal overtime, wages below the living wage threshold and occupational safety deficiencies were found in the production of 12 products in the maternity package.
The risk of serious human rights problems is even greater in raw materials, the origin of which most of the companies that responded to the Finnwatch survey did not know at all.
– Cotton production for example involves human rights risks such as child labour and forced labour. Still, only one textile product included in the maternity package was made of certified cotton, says Vartiala.
The company that supplies the most products to the maternity package, Jutta Product, did not give Finnwatch any information about the origin of its products.
– Most of the other companies supplying products for the maternity package, however, responded openly to the Finnwatch survey and shared a lot of information about their supply chains, says Vartiala.
Finnwatch criticizes Kela's tendering criteria that neglect social responsibility issues.
– Kela has almost completely ignored corporate responsibility issues in its tendering criteria. Following dialogue with Finnwatch, Kela introduced new social responsibility requirements to the tender for the 2020 maternity package. However, the new requirements still do not address problems such as excessive overtime or inadequate wages. Hopefully, in 2021, Finnish families will finally receive a socially responsible and ecological maternity box, Vartiala says.
Finnwatch’s new report “Social Responsibility of Products Included in Finland’s Maternity Package” (in Finnish) presents detailed information on 40 products included in the 2018 maternity package. The 2018 maternity package will be distributed to mothers between 2018 and Spring 2019. The maternity package is offered as a benefit under the Finnish social security system and it is not commercially available. The products it contains are sourced through a competitive bidding process complying with the EU law on public procurement.
sonja.vartiala (a) finnwatch.org
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