Supply chains and unfree labor: regulatory failure in the case of Samsung Electronics in Slovakia

Rutvica Andrijasevic*, Tonia Novitz

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalSpecial issue (Academic Journal)peer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)
164 Downloads (Pure)


The protection of labour rights of temporary migrant workers in global supply chains requires further theoretical and policy research. Through the case of Serbian workers in Slovak electronics supply chains, we look at how the transnational recruitment of labour via temporary work agencies (TWAs) for globally organised production generates heightened forms of exploitation and unfree labour relations. We show that such exploitation occurs in a regulatory framework consisting of various instruments ranging from the Palermo Protocol specific to trafficking, to EU law addressing the mobility of workers, and corporate codes of conduct aimed at guaranteeing worker rights within supply chains. Paradoxically, despite an overregulated field, existing instruments fail to offer a straightforward avenue for redress. We suggest that this failure is an outcome of the current legal and corporate regulatory matrix that allows market competition through work practices that violate basic labour standards and produce the conditions that enable and sustain unfree labour relations, while normalising exploitation in supply chains.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)195-208
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Human Trafficking
Issue number2
Early online date29 Feb 2020
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 29 Feb 2020

Structured keywords

  • MGMT theme Global Political Economy
  • Migration Mobilities Bristol
  • Gender Research Group
  • Global Political Economy
  • Perspectives on Work
  • MGMT Work Organisation and Public Policy


  • Unfree labour
  • electronics supply chain
  • labour rights
  • temporary migrant workers
  • posting of workers


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