KTK Australia denies forced labour allegations

Allegations that slave labour was used in the production of components used in a number of Australian rollingstock fleets have been strongly denied by KTK Australia.

In a statement, KTK Australia said that such allegations “are based on no official documents, interviews or testimony”.

The allegations stem from a US Department of Commerce blacklist that included KTK Australia’s parent company, KTK Group. The US Department of Commerce said that KTK Group was implicated in human rights violations such as the forced labour of Muslim minority groups from Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region.

KTK Australia disputed the basis for these implications.

“KTK Group has never employed workers who are members of the Uyghur ethnic minority,” said the KTK Australia statement.

KTK Australia’s website lists its components as in use on a number of Australian rollingstock fleets. These include NSW’s New Intercity Fleet (NIF), and Sydney Metro, the X’Trapolis and High Capacity Metro Trains (HCMT) in Victoria, and Queensland’s Next Generation Rollingstock (NGR).

Bombardier, which manufactures the NGR fleet, said that it was closely looking into the allegations.

“Bombardier Transportation is aware of the recent action by the United States Commerce Department in relation to KTK Group Co. We are actively monitoring this new dynamic – impacting the transportation industry – and any effect this could have on our own supply chain, projects and products,” said a Bombardier Transportation spokesman.

In Bombardier’s Supplier Code of Conduct, which all suppliers must agree to, forced labour, modern slavery, and human trafficking are explicitly prohibited. The code outlines:

Bombardier will not engage in the use of forced or enslaved labour or human trafficking, nor will it tolerate their use at any level in its supply chains. Suppliers must not demand any work or service from any person under the menace of any penalty. For example, Suppliers’ employees must be free to leave work or terminate their employment with reasonable notice, and they are not required to surrender any government issued identification, passports or work permits as a condition of employment.

Alstom, which manufactures the Sydney Metro and X’Trapolis fleet, also prohibits forced labour in its supply chain. Its Ethics and Sustainable Development Charter requires that suppliers commit to the “elimination of all forms of illegal, forced or compulsory labour”.

A Victorian Department of Transport spokesperson said that it was assured that there is no evidence of forced labour in the supply chains of its rollingstock.

“We have asked our manufacturers to take additional steps to ensure the integrity of their supply chains, and we continue to monitor the situation and will consider further steps based on the outcomes of ongoing supply chain investigations.”

A Transport for NSW spokesperson highlighted that suppliers must comply with Australian laws covering subcontracting and reporting requirements.

“Transport for NSW also has rights to access and audit the supplier’s records and the materials, goods, workmanship or work methodology employed at any place where the supplier’s activities are being carried out.”

The NSW spokesperson said that the components in use on the NIF were from the French arm of KTK.

In a report published by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI), which is in part funded by the US State Department, KTK Group is named as one company that was involved in the transfer of Uyghurs out of Xinjiang. The report cites online news articles.

KTK Australia noted that the cited articles refer to non-Uyghur workers from Xinjiang constructing a playground in a city in Jiangsu province.

“KTK Group confirms that in 2018-19 it did employ a small number of workers from Xinjiang, who were not ethnically Uyghurs, all were properly employed and paid the same wage as all KTK other workers in the same positions,” the KTK Australia statement read.

The US Department of Commerce blacklist prohibits US companies from working with listed companies. KTK Group has no investments in the US and said the decision would not have a material impact on the business.

“KTK Group is a transparent company and we welcome any international customers to inspect our facilities and to audit our labour practices.”

Final train in NGR fleet enters service

The final New Generation Rollingstock (NGR) train has now entered service for the Queensland government.

The 75th train, manufactured by Bombardier, will be used by the Queensland government to provide services to the growing South-East Queensland region. Already, the trains have travelled over eight million in service kilometres, and 150,000 passenger journeys, since December 2017.

“Our highly efficient commuter cars have been performing well, providing passengers in Queensland with a safe and comfortable ride. Bombardier is providing mobility solutions through its NGR and Gold Coast projects, helping the Queensland Government deliver its economic and public transportation development programs,” said Wendy McMillan, president, South East Asia and Australia, Bombardier Transportation.

Maintenance of the fleet will be carried out by Bombardier at Wulkuraka, near Ipswich, for 32 years, where testing and commissioning has been occurring.

“This significant milestone of the last NGR train delivery in Queensland was achieved thanks to close collaboration between Queensland’s Department of Transport and Main Roads (TMR), Queensland Rail, Bombardier and our partners,” said McMillan.

“Bombardier has created more than 2,000 local jobs across the industry and supply chain throughout this project.”

The NGR rollingstock had to be modified in 2019 to revised design specifications in order to meet disability specifications. According to a statement from Bombardier, the new trains will be one of the most accessible in Australia.

At the time, Paul Brown, Bombardier Australia’s project director for the NGR project, said, “This variation order is an important request from our customer, and we will continue to work closely with them to deliver the NGR project in line with the enhanced specifications set out by the Queensland Government”.

Speaking to Rail Express in late 2018, Brown highlighted that the rollingstock were built to specification.

“Bombardier has delivered those trains within accordance with the contract.”