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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: May 31st, 2018

CONTACT: Nazly Sobhi Damasio, nazly@globallaborjustice.org

Gender Based Violence in the Asian H&M and Gap Garment Supply Chains: Two Reports to the International Labor Organization

Today, as negotiations are underway at the International Labor Organization in Geneva to create a global standard on women’s labor rights, Global Labor Justice announces new research showing why an international labor standard on gender based violence must include strong accountability for women working in global production networks.

Along with the Asia Floor Wage Alliance (AFWA) and its members CENTRAL Cambodia , Sedane Labour Resource Centre (LIPS) Indonesia , and Society for Labour and Development (SLD) India, Global Labor Justice released two groundbreaking factory level research reports exposing gender based violence in H&M and Gap’s Asian garment supply chains. The coalition is also asking for immediate action to be taken by H&M and Gap to end the violence and harassment that women garment workers are forced to endure regularly in their garment supplier factories.

These reports follow the release of Friday’s report documents the spectrum of gender based violence in Walmart’s global garment production network in advance of its annual shareholder meeting.

This new research documents sexual harassment and violence including physical violence, verbal abuse, coercion, threats and retaliation, and routine deprivations of liberty including forced overtime. The research also makes clear these are not isolated incidents and that gender based violence in the H&M and Gap garment supply chains is a direct result of how these brands conduct business.

The H&M and Gap reports include an investigation of gender-based violence in H&M and Gap garment supplier factories, undertaken between January 2018 and May 2018 in nine garment production hubs across five countries in Asia, including: Dhaka, Bangladesh; Phnom Penh, Cambodia; West Java and North Jakarta, Indonesia; Bangalore, Gurugram (Gurgaon), and Tiruppur, India; and Biyagama, Gampaha District and Vavuniya District, Northern Province, Sri Lanka.

Contextualizing these findings in relationship to industry risk factors, the reports draw upon 2016 Asia Floor Wage Alliance research documenting human rights violations in H&M and Gap garment global supply chains; and the findings of five national level people’s tribunals held by Asia Floor Wage Alliance on working conditions in garment global production networks in South and Southeast Asia.

Based upon analysis of the spectrum of gender based violence and associated risk factors in the garment industry, these reports include concrete recommendations for an ILO Convention to eliminate gender based violence and harassment in the world of work. This work is urgent and important.

In an April 2018 labor dispute profiled in the H&M report , the Karnataka Garment Workers Union (KOOGU) presented a letter to the General Manager of an H&M supplier factory in Bangalore, India requesting a discussion of three demands related to wages and other working conditions.

The meeting was never called. Two days later, the elected representatives of the union were physically assaulted by management. Leaders — including women workers —- were physically beaten up, dragged out of the factory, and called derogatory caste related slurs. A 31 year old woman who was employed as a tailor in the factory, and elected as a leader of the union, describes being grabbed by her hair and punched while enduring a torrent of slurs including, “ “you whore, your caste people should be kept where the slippers are kept ” — and others with even more derogatory language .

In another labor dispute in India also profiled in the H&M report , women workers employed in an H&M supplier factory in Bangalore, Karnataka, India reported physical abuse associated with pressure to meet production targets. A worker, Radhika, described being thrown to the floor and beaten:

On September 27, 2017, at 12:30 pm, my batch supervisor came up behind me as I was working on the sewing machine, yelling “you are not meeting your target production.” He pulled me out of the chair and I fell on the floor. He hit me, including on my breasts. He pulled me up and then pushed me to the floor again. He kicked me.

In an H&M supplier factory in Sri Lanka, a woman worker recounted facing retaliation for responding to unwanted physical touch from machine operators charged with fixing broken sewing machines in the production unit:

When girls scold machine operators for touching them or grabbing them, they take revenge. Sometimes they give them machines that do not function properly. Then, they do not come and repair it for a long time. After that, supervisors scold us for not meeting the target.

In an Indonesian Gap supplier factory, failure to meet production targets not only provokes verbal abuse but also intimidation and threats of firing. One woman described the daily barrage of yelling and mocking from her supervisor, driving her to meet production targets:

If you miss the target, all the workers in the production room can hear the yelling:

“You stupid! Cannot work?”

“If you are not willing to work, just go home!”

“Watch out, you! I will not extend your contract if you cannot work.” “You don’t have to come to work tomorrow if you can’t do your job!”

“They also throw materials. They kick our chairs. They don’t touch us so they don’t leave a mark that could be used as evidence with the police, but it is very stressful.”

Women workers employed in a Gap supplier factory in Biyagama, Gampaha District, Sri Lanka also reported both working late into the night and risking harassment and robbery on their way home. One worker recounted:

“Supervisors require us to work in the night, but we do not get transport to go home. People from the factory take advantage of women in this position. We are harassed by men who wait outside the factory gates at night, especially younger women. A friend of mine was robbed. They took all of the jewellery she was wearing.”

Anannya Bhattacharjee, International Coordinator of Asia Floor Wage Alliance says, “Decades of research and experience provide ample proof that voluntary corporate social responsibility initiatives whitewash a pattern of labor violations along global garment supply chains. The beneficiaries are a multi-billion-dollar corporate garment industry that has failed workers, employers, and consumers.

Corporate accountability requires brands including H&M and Gap and their suppliers to negotiate and adopt binding and enforceable agreements with garment unions in production countries.

“Women workers and their labor organizations are uniting across borders to demand work that is free of gender based violence, pays a living wage, and promotes women’s initiative and leadership at all levels,” says Jennifer (JJ) Rosenbaum, U.S. Director of Global Labor Justice . “Multinational corporations are expanding global supply chain models in many sectors. But it’s not only the corporations that are going global. Intersectional movements of workers, women, migrants and others are building cross-border networks and demanding change to a system that relies on poverty wages and gender based violence to deliver fast fashion to the U.S. and Europe at the expense of the well-being of women garment workers and their families.”

Tola Meun, Executive Director of CENTRAL , described the violence documented in the report as a daily reality, “Gender based violence is a daily reality for women garment workers driven to meet unrealistic production targets in H&M and Gap’s supply chains. Most of these cases are not reported due to fear of retaliation in the workplace, including facing higher production targets or even being fired.”

“These findings from the research show that women workers need strong, independent trade unions to respond to gender based violence and the surveillance and retaliation that block many women workers from coming forward,” said Emilia Yanti Sihaan, General Secretary of the Indonesia Federation of Independent Trade Unions (GSBI) . “Women workers will not stop with an international labor standard eliminating gender based violence – we also demand core labor standards protecting freedom of association and collective bargaining to be respected by employers and governments.”

In response to the reports, the Women’s Leadership Committee of the Asia Floor Wage Alliance is asking Gap to take three immediate action steps:

  1. Publicly support and commit to proactively implement an ILO Convention Recommendation on Gender Based Violence that includes the recommendations from the Asia Floor Wage Alliance and partners
  2. Meet with the Asia Floor Wage Women’s Leadership Committee in the next three months to discuss the supply chain findings and next steps
  3. Proactively work with the Asia Floor Wage Alliance to pilot women’s committees in factories that eliminate gender based violence and discrimination from the supplier factories

Asia Floor Wage Alliance and Global Labor Justice are also calling on H&M to ensure its supplier immediately addresses the demands from the KOOGU union :

  1. Reinstate all 15 workers who were fired in retaliation for union activity
  2. Terminate employment for all factory managers and senior staff involved in the attack
  3. Meet with KOOGU to discuss the original three demands: inclusion of an elected worker on the factory health committee to address water quality at the factory, steps to address irregular transportation to the factory, and negotiation to raise payments that are currently below living wages.

A substantive response from H&M and Gap has yet to be received after the reports coupled with requests for action were sent to H&M and Gap on May 30th, 2018.

 

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Global Labor Justice (GLJ) is a US based strategy hub supporting transnational collaboration among worker and migrant organizations to expand labor rights and new forms of bargaining on global value chains and international labor migration corridors.

Asia Floor Wage Alliance (AFWA) was officially formed in 2006 and includes more than 76 organizations, including garment industry trade unions, NGOs, consumer groups and research institutes from more than 17 countries from across Asia, Europe and North America.

CENTRAL (The Center for Alliance of Labor & Human Rights) is a local Cambodian NGO. The organization empowers Cambodian working people to demand transparent and accountable governance for labor and human rights through legal aid and other appropriate means.

Sedane Labour Resource Centre/Lembaga Informasi Perburuhan Sedane (LIPS) is a nongovernmental organization in labor studies. LIPS works to strengthen the labor movement by documenting knowledge through participatory research and developing methods of popular education in labor groups and unions.

Society for Labour and Development (SDI) is a Delhi-based labour rights organisation. SLD promotes equitable development by advocating for the social and economic wellbeing of workers, with a particular emphasis on women’s and migrants’ rights and cultural renewal among disenfranchised people. SLD works in the National Capital Region Territory, Haryana, Uttar, Pradesh, Bihar, and Jharkhand.

 

 

 

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: May 25th, 2018

CONTACT: Nazly Sobhi Damasio, nazly@globallaborjustice.org

Worker Voices from the Asian Walmart Garment Supply Chain: A Report on Gender Based Violence to the 2018 International Labour Organization

A global coalition of trade unions, worker rights and human rights organizations, which includes Asia Floor Wage Alliance (AFWA), CENTRAL Cambodia , and Global Labor Justice released a groundbreaking factory level research report today detailing gender based violence in Walmart’s Asian garment supply chain and are also asking for immediate action be taken by Walmart to end the violence and harassment that women garment workers are forced to endure daily.

After significant initiative from trade unions, the International Labour Organization (ILO) will convene to set international labor standards on gender based violence . Trade union leaders from around the world along with governments and business will meet to discuss the historic opportunity to create a global standard protecting women across sectors. This report has been prepared to inform this dialogue and to make sure the experience and recommendations of low wage women workers and the sectors and supply chains that rely on them are uplifted in order to create a strong framework guided by the leadership of trade unions and worker organizations that will provide employers, multinational enterprises, and governments a blueprint for eliminating gender based violence in the workplace.

The report includes an investigation of gender-based violence in the Walmart garment supplier factories conducted between January 2018 and May 2018 in Dhaka, Bangladesh, Phnom Penh, Cambodia; and West Java, Indonesia. The research seeks to understand the spectrum of gender based violence and associated risk factors; and to use this information to address gender based violence through an ongoing approach that incorporates training on workplace violence as well as national and international level advocacy. The report builds on a 2016 report documenting human rights violations in Walmart’s garment global supply chain and five tribunals held by the Asia Floor Wage on the sector overall.

Women workers reported sexual harassment and violence ; and industrial discipline practices, including physical violence, verbal abuse, coercion, threats and retaliation, and routine deprivations of liberty including forced overtime. These are not isolated incidents, gender based violence in the Walmart garment supply chains is a direct result of how Walmart conducts business.

Sulatana, a former production-line manager in a Walmart supplier factory in Dhaka, Bangladesh shares her experience with sexual harassment and retaliation:

“He flirted with me, he would touch me on the shoulder or touch me on the head. I tried to ignore him. I thought if I showed no interest, he would stop. It didn’t work. He offered me a salary increase and a promotion if I agreed. When I did not, he threatened to fire me. I was anxious and afraid. I skipped work the next day… The police refused to receive my complaint on the grounds that I had no authentic proof. A few days later, . . . the General Manager me to his office and asked me to resign immediately. When I approached Human Resources, I was told that the General Manager’s decision was final.”

Shahida, a 26-year-old sewing machine operator in a Walmart supplier factory in Dhaka, Bangladesh details the targeted verbal abuse women workers experience in order to avoid being paid workplace benefits:

“I began working at this factory in April 2013. I earned a good reputation as a skilled and dedicated worker. The line-chief and supervisor were happy with my work. After completing my fourth year at the factory, they reversed their attitude toward me. They shouted at me and bullied me. They called me names. I reported this to the factory manager, but he responded by raising my production targets. I couldn’t manage to work this way. In March 2018, before reaching my fifth year, I quit the job. It was exactly what they wanted. I resigned and they did not pay me the gratuity I had earned because they said I had resigned from the job myself.”

A woman worker from a former Walmart supplier factory in Kingsland Garment, Jakarta, Indonesia describes the physical impact of working long hours, seated, in a poorly ventilated factory:

“At work I’m facing stomach pain, digestion and nose problems from sitting long hours working so much overtime, and working so many days. But sometimes I just have to forget my sickness because I have no money. I have to be the rock in the family.”

Anannya Bhattacharjee, secretariat of AFWA says, “Walmart, the trend-setter for lean supply chain management relies on women workers’ gender-based exploitation in their supply chains to maximize their profits. To eliminate gender based violence in supply chains, Walmart and other brands must take responsibility on their supply chains. It is also fundamental that Walmart and other brands respect the freedom of association and collective bargaining that allow women workers to be change agents in the global economy.

“The movement for dignity and equity at work for all women is global”, says Jennifer (JJ) Rosenbaum, U.S. Director of Global Labor Justice. “Women in the U.S. shouldn’t stop at holding Walmart and U.S. corporations accountable for what happens in their U.S. retail stores and warehouses. We must also demand accountability along their global production networks.”

Tola Meun, Executive Director of CENTRAL says, “Gender based violence is a daily reality for women garment workers driven to meet unrealistic production targets in Walmart supply chains. Most of these cases are not reported due to fear of retaliation in the workplace.”

In response to the reports, the Women’s Leadership Committee of the Asia Floor Wage Alliance is asking Walmart for three immediate action steps :

  1. Publicly support and commit to proactively implement an ILO Convention Recommendation on Gender Based Violence that includes the recommendations from the Asia Floor Wage Alliance and partners.
  2. Meet with Asia regional meeting (s) organized by the Asia Floor Wage Women’s Leadership Committee in the next three months to discuss the supply chain findings and next steps.
  3. Proactively work with the Asia Floor Wage Alliance to pilot women’s committees in factories that eliminate gender based violence and discrimination from the supplier factories.

Walmart is preparing various activities for its shareholder meeting next week and released a report on global responsibility earlier this year. A substantive response from Walmart has yet to be received after the reports coupled with requests for action were sent to Walmart the morning of May 23 rd , 2018.

Walmart workers at U.S. retail stores with the Organization United for Respect at Walmart (OUR) announced support from the #TimesUp Legal Defense Fund to support litigation against Walmart for sexual harassment.

 

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Global Labor Justice (GLJ) is a US based strategy hub supporting transnational collaboration among worker and migrant organizations to expand labor rights and new forms of bargaining on global value chains and international labor migration corridors.

Asia Floor Wage Alliance (AFWA) was officially formed in 2006 and includes more than 76 organizations, including garment industry trade unions, NGOs, consumer groups and research institutes from more than 17 countries from across Asia, Europe and North America.

CENTRAL (The Center for Alliance of Labor & Human Rights) is a local Cambodian NGO. The organization empowers Cambodian working people to demand transparent and accountable governance for labor and human rights through legal aid and other appropriate means.

 

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Vozes dos Trabalhadores da Cadeia Asiática de Suprimento de Vestuário: Um Relatório sobre Violência da Classe Feminina

Uma aliança global de sindicatos, e organizações pelos direitos dos trabalhadores e direitos humanos no qual inclui Asia Floor Wage Alliance (AFWA), CENTRAL Cambodia e Global Labor Justice liberaram um relatório inovador que foi feito entre as fábricas no dia 25 de Mayo revelando violência da classe feminina da cadeia Asiática de suprimento de vestuário Walmart. As organizações também estão pedindo para o Walmart tomar *providências imediatas*, para finalizar a violencia e assedio que estas mulheres trabalhadoras estão forçadas a enfrentar diariamente. Após iniciativa empreendedora dos sindicatos, o International Labour Organization (ILO) vai convocar para configurar um padrão internacional de trabalho na violência da classe feminina. Líderes de sindicatos ao redor do mundo, governos e negócios vão encontrar para discutir a oportunidade histórica criar um padrão global, protegendo mulheres em todos os setores. Este relatório vai informar a discussão e acertar que os comentarios e recomendações das mulheres trabalhadoras de baixa renda estão sendo ouvidos e empoderados e as cadeias de suprimento que dependem dessas mulheres trabalhadores também são empoderadas para criar um sistema forte para os empregadores, empresas multinacionais e governos eliminar violência da classe feminina.

Este relatório inclui uma investigação de violência da classe feminina na fábrica da cadeia de suprimento Walmart conduzido entre Janeiro 2018 e Maio 2018 em Dhaka, Bangladesh, Phnom Penh, Camboja e Indonésia Java Oeste e segue um relatório feito no ano 2016 documentando violações de direitos humanos na cadeia global de suprimentos e os cinco tribunais detidos pelo Asia Floor Wage em todos os setores.

Estes novos estúdios documentam o assédio sexual e violência da classe incluindo violência física, abuso verbal, a força, ameaças e retaliações, uma rotina falta de liberdade incluindo forçado horas extras. Estes estúdios também esclarecem que a cadeia de suprimentos normaliza esta violência da classe por que acontece com muita frequencia.

Sulatana, Uma Ex gerente de linha de produção em uma fábrica de fornecedores Walmart in Dhaka, Bangladesh compartilha a sua experiencia com assédio sexual e retaliação:

“Ele flertou comigo, ele tocaria em meu ombro ou na minha cabeça. eu tentei ignora-lo. eu pensei que se eu não mostrasse interesse, ele iria parar. Não funcionou. Ele me ofereceu um aumento de salário e uma promoção se eu concordasse, Quando eu não aceitei, ele ameaçou me demitir.

Eu estava ansiosa e com medo. Eu faltei no trabalho no dia seguinte…A polícia se recusou a receber minha queixa alegando que eu não tinha nenhuma prova autêntica. Alguns dias depois,…o gerente geral me chamou para seu escritório e pediu-me para renunciar imediatamente. Quando eu abordei o Recursos Humanos, me disseram que a decisão final era do Gerente Geral.

Shahida, Uma costureira de 26 anos que opera em uma fábrica de fornecedores in Dhaka , Bangladesh detalha o abuso verbal direcionado que as trabalhadoras vivenciam para evitar receber benefícios no local de trabalho:

“Comecei a trabalhar nesta fábrica em abril de 2013. Ganhei uma boa reputação como funcionário qualificado e dedicado. O chefe de linha e o supervisor estavam felizes com o meu trabalho. Depois de completar meu quarto ano na fábrica, eles inverteram sua atitude em relação a mim. Eles gritavam comigo e me ameaçavam. Eles me chamavam de nomes. Eu reportei isso para o gerente da fábrica, mas ele respondeu aumentando minhas metas de produção. Eu não conseguia mais trabalhar assim. Em março de 2018, antes de completar meu quinto ano, deixei o emprego. Era exatamente o que eles queriam. Eu me demiti e eles não me pagaram a gratificação que eu tinha ganhado porque eles disseram que eu havia me demitido do trabalho.”

Uma trabalhadora de uma antiga fábrica de fornecedores Walmart em Kingsland Garment, Jacarta, na Indonésia, descreve o impacto físico de trabalhar longas horas sentado em uma fábrica mal ventilada :

“No trabalho, estou com dor de estômago, digestão e nariz problemas de sentar longas horas trabalhando tanto tempo extra, e trabalhando tantos dias. Mas às vezes eu só tenho que esquecer minha doença porque não tenho dinheiro. Eu tenho que ser a rocha da família.

Anannya Bhattacharjee, secretariado de AFWA, diz “o Walmart e o criador de tendências de gestão das cadeias de suprimento e confiam na exploração das mulheres trabalhadoras para capitalizar os lucros. Eliminar violência da classe feminina das cadeias de suprimento o Walmart e as outras marcas devem assumir a responsabilidade. É necessario tambem que o Walmart e as outras marcas respeitam a liberdade de associação e barganha coletiva que permite às mulheres ser agentes de mudança na economia global.”

“A necessidade de dignidade e equidade é global,” diz a Jennifer (JJ) Rosenbaum, diretora de Global Labor Justice nos EUA. “Mulheres nos EUA devem fazer mais. Devemos exigir prestação de contas nas lojas, nos armazéns e nas redes globais de produção.

Tola Meun, diretora executiva de CENTRAL diz, “Como os alvos de produção são irrealistas, violência da classe e uma realidade que estas mulheres trabalhadoras de confecções enfrentarem diariamente. Estos casos estão nunca reportados por ter medo de retaliação no trabalho.”

Em resposta aos relatorios, o Women’s Leadership Committee de Asia Floor Wage Alliance esta requisitando o Walmart a fazer três passos de acção imediato:

  1. Suporte público e um compromisso proativo ao implementar a ILO convenção de recomendações da classe feminina violentada que inclui as recomendações da AFWA e parceiros.
  2. Encontrar com o AFWA e o comitê de mulheres líderes nos próximos três meses para discutir descobertas na cadeia de suprimentos e próximos passos.
  3. Trabalhar proativamente com AFWA para comandar o comitê de mulheres nas fábricas que eliminam violência sexual contra a classe feminina pelas empresas.

Esta semana o Walmart teve uma reunião com seus acionistas e liberou um relatório de responsabilidade global no início deste ano. O Walmart ainda não forneceu uma resposta substantiva apos os relatorios e solic’ita’co’es de acc”ao foram mandados na manha’ no dia 23 de Mayo, 2018.

Trabalhadores do Walmart com o Organization United for Respect at Walmart (OUR) anunciaram suporte de #TimesUp Legal Defense Fund para suportar litigio contra o Walmart para o assedio sexual.

 


 

Worker Voices from the Asian Walmart Garment Supply Chain: A Report on Gender Based Violence

A global coalition of trade unions, worker rights and human rights organizations, which includes Asia Floor Wage Alliance (AFWA), CENTRAL Cambodia , and Global Labor Justice released a groundbreaking factory level research report on Friday, May 25th exposing gender based violence in Walmart’s Asian garment supply chain. The coalition is also asking that Walmart take immediate action t to end the violence and harassment that women garment workers are forced to endure regularly in their garment supplier factories.

After significant initiative from trade unions, the International Labour Organization (ILO) will convene to set international labor standards on gender based violence . Trade union leaders from around the world along with governments and business will meet to discuss the historic opportunity to create a global standard protecting women across sectors. This report has been prepared to inform this dialogue and to make sure the experience and recommendations of low wage women workers and the sectors and supply chains that rely on them are uplifted in order to create a strong framework guided by the leadership of trade unions and worker organizations that will provide employers, multinational enterprises, and governments a blueprint for eliminating gender based violence in the workplace.

The report includes an investigation of gender-based violence in the Walmart garment supplier factories conducted between January 2018 and May 2018 in Dhaka, Bangladesh, Phnom Penh, Cambodia; and West Java, Indonesia; and builds on a 2016 report documenting human rights violations in Walmart’s garment global supply chain and five tribunals held by the Asia Floor Wage on the sector overall.

This new research documents sexual harassment and violence including physical violence, verbal abuse, coercion, threats and retaliation, and routine deprivations of liberty including forced overtime. The research also makes clear these are not isolated incidents and that gender based violence in the Walmart supply chains is a direct result of how this employer conducts business.

Sulatana, a former production-line manager in a Walmart supplier factory in Dhaka, Bangladesh shares her experience with sexual harassment and retaliation:

“He flirted with me, he would touch me on the shoulder or touch me on the head. I tried to ignore him. I thought if I showed no interest, he would stop. It didn’t work. He offered me a salary increase and a promotion if I agreed. When I did not, he threatened to fire me. I was anxious and afraid. I skipped work the next day… The police refused to receive my complaint on the grounds that I had no authentic proof. A few days later, . . . the General Manager me to his office and asked me to resign immediately. When I approached Human Resources, I was told that the General Manager’s decision was final.”

Shahida, a 26-year-old sewing machine operator in a Walmart supplier factory in Dhaka, Bangladesh details the targeted verbal abuse women workers experience in order to avoid being paid workplace benefits:

“I began working at this factory in April 2013. I earned a good reputation as a skilled and dedicated worker. The line-chief and supervisor were happy with my work. After completing my fourth year at the factory, they reversed their attitude toward me. They shouted at me and bullied me. They called me names. I reported this to the factory manager, but he responded by raising my production targets. I couldn’t manage to work this way. In March 2018, before reaching my fifth year, I quit the job. It was exactly what they wanted. I resigned and they did not pay me the gratuity I had earned because they said I had resigned from the job myself.”

A woman worker from a former Walmart supplier factory in Kingsland Garment, Jakarta, Indonesia describes the physical impact of working long hours, seated, in a poorly ventilated factory:

“At work I’m facing stomach pain, digestion and nose problems from sitting long hours working so much overtime, and working so many days. But sometimes I just have to forget my sickness because I have no money. I have to be the rock in the family.”

Anannya Bhattacharjee, secretariat of AFWA says, “Walmart, the trend-setter for lean supply chain management relies on women workers’ gender-based exploitation in their supply chains to maximize their profits. To eliminate gender based violence in supply chains, Walmart and other brands must take responsibility on their supply chains. It is also fundamental that Walmart and other brands respect the freedom of association and collective bargaining that allow women workers to be change agents in the global economy.

“The movement for dignity and equity at work for all women is global”, says Jennifer (JJ) Rosenbaum, U.S. Director of Global Labor Justice. “Women in the U.S. shouldn’t stop at holding Walmart and U.S. corporations accountable for what happens in their U.S. retail stores and warehouses. We must also demand accountability along their global production networks.”

Tola Meun, Executive Director of CENTRAL says, “Gender based violence is a daily reality for women garment workers driven to meet unrealistic production targets in Walmart supply chains. Most of these cases are not reported due to fear of retaliation in the workplace.”

In response to the reports, the Women’s Leadership Committee of the Asia Floor Wage Alliance is asking Walmart for three immediate action steps :

  1. Publicly support and commit to proactively implement an ILO Convention Recommendation on Gender Based Violence that includes the recommendations from the Asia Floor Wage Alliance and partners.
  2. Meet with Asia regional meeting (s) organized by the Asia Floor Wage Women’s Leadership Committee in the next three months to discuss the supply chain findings and next steps.
  3. Proactively work with the Asia Floor Wage Alliance to pilot women’s committees in factories that eliminate gender based violence and discrimination from the supplier factories.

Walmart held its shareholder meeting this week and released a report on global responsibility earlier this year. A substantive response from Walmart has yet to be received after the reports coupled with requests for action were sent to Walmart the morning of May 23 rd , 2018.

Walmart workers at U.S. retail stores with the Organization United for Respect at Walmart (OUR) announced support from the #TimesUp Legal Defense Fund to support litigation against Walmart for sexual harassment.

 

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PARA PUBLICACIÓN INMEDIATA: May 25th, 2018

CONTACTO: Nazly Sobhi Damasio, nazly@globallaborjustice.org

Voces de las Trabajadoras de la Cadena de Suministro de Prendas de Vestir de Walmart en Asia: Un Informe Sobre la Violencia de Género a la Organización Internacional del Trabajo de 2018

Una coalición mundial de sindicatos, organizaciones de derechos laborales y organizaciones de derechos humanos, que incluye Asia Floor Wage Alliance (AFWA), CENTRAL Camboya y Global Labor Justice publicaron un innovador informe de investigación a nivel de fábrica que detalla la violencia de género en la cadena de suministro de prendas asiáticas de Walmart. y también piden que Walmart tome medidas inmediatas para poner fin a la violencia y el acoso que las trabajadoras de la confección se ven obligadas a soportar a diario.

Después de una importante iniciativa de los sindicatos, la Organización Internacional del Trabajo (OIT) se reunirá para establecer normas internacionales del trabajo sobre la violencia de género. Los líderes sindicales de todo el mundo junto con los gobiernos y las empresas se reunirán para analizar la oportunidad histórica de crear un estándar global que proteja a las mujeres en todos los sectores. Este informe ha sido preparado para informar este diálogo y garantizar que la experiencia y las recomendaciones de las trabajadoras de bajos ingresos y los sectores y cadenas de suministro que dependen de ellas se eleven para crear un marco sólido guiado por el liderazgo de los sindicatos y los trabajadores. organizaciones que proporcionarán a los empleadores, las empresas multinacionales y los gobiernos un plan para eliminar la violencia de género en el lugar de trabajo.

El informe incluye una investigación sobre la violencia de género en las fábricas proveedoras de ropa de Walmart realizadas entre enero de 2018 y mayo de 2018 en Dhaka, Bangladesh, Phnom Penh, Camboya; y West Java, Indonesia. La investigación busca comprender el espectro de la violencia de género y los factores de riesgo asociados; y utilizar esta información para abordar la violencia de género a través de un enfoque continuo que incorpora capacitación sobre violencia en el lugar de trabajo, así como la promoción a nivel nacional e internacional. El informe se basa en un informe de 2016 que documenta las violaciones de derechos humanos en la cadena de suministro global de prendas de vestir de Walmart y en cinco tribunales celebrados por Asia Floor Wage en el sector en general.

Las trabajadoras denunciaron acoso sexual y violencia; y prácticas de disciplina industrial, incluida la violencia física, el abuso verbal, la coacción, las amenazas y las represalias, y las privaciones de libertad de rutina, incluidas las horas extraordinarias forzadas. Estos no son incidentes aislados, la violencia de género en las cadenas de suministro de prendas de vestir de Walmart es un resultado directo de cómo Walmart realiza negocios.

Sulatana, una ex gerente de línea de producción en una fábrica de proveedores de Walmart en Dhaka, Bangladesh, comparte su experiencia con el acoso sexual y las represalias:

“Él coqueteaba conmigo, me tocaba en el hombro o me tocaba la cabeza”. Traté de ignorarlo. Pensé que si no mostraba interés, él se detendría. No funcionó. Me ofreció un aumento salarial y una promoción si aceptaba. Cuando no lo hice, amenazó con despedirme. Estaba ansioso y asustado. Me salteé el trabajo al día siguiente … La policía se negó a recibir mi queja porque no tenía pruebas auténticas. Unos días más tarde, . . . el gerente general me llevó a su oficina y me pidió que renunciara de inmediato. Cuando me acerqué a Recursos Humanos, me dijeron que la decisión del Gerente General era definitiva “.

Shahida, una operadora de máquinas de coser de 26 años de edad, en una fábrica de Walmart en Dhaka, Bangladesh, detalla la experiencia específica de las mujeres trabajadoras del abuso verbal para evitar que se les paguen beneficios en el lugar de trabajo:

“Comencé a trabajar en esta fábrica en abril de 2013. Obtuve una buena reputación como trabajador calificado y dedicado. El jefe de línea y el supervisor estaban contentos con mi trabajo. Después de completar mi cuarto año en la fábrica, cambiaron su actitud hacia mí. Me gritaron y me intimidaron. Me llamaron nombres. Informé esto al gerente de la fábrica, pero él respondió elevando mis objetivos de producción. No podría lograr trabajar de esta manera. En marzo de 2018, antes de cumplir mi quinto año, dejé el trabajo. Era exactamente lo que querían. Renuncié y no me pagaron la propina que había ganado porque me dijeron que había renunciado al trabajo yo mismo “.

Una trabajadora de una antigua fábrica proveedora de Walmart en Kingsland Garment, Yakarta, Indonesia, describe el impacto físico de trabajar muchas horas sentado en una fábrica mal ventilada:

“En el trabajo, tengo problemas estomacales, de digestión y de nariz debido a largas horas trabajando tanto tiempo extra y trabajando tantos días. Pero a veces solo tengo que olvidar mi enfermedad porque no tengo dinero. Tengo que ser el rock en la familia “.

Anannya Bhattacharjee, coordinadora internacional de AFWA, dice: “Walmart, la creadora de tendencias para la gestión de la cadena de suministro ajustada se basa en la explotación basada en el género de las trabajadoras en sus cadenas de suministro para maximizar sus ganancias. Para eliminar la violencia de género en las cadenas de suministro, Walmart y otras marcas deben asumir la responsabilidad en sus cadenas de suministro. También es fundamental que Walmart y otras marcas respeten la libertad de asociación y la negociación colectiva que permiten a las mujeres trabajadoras ser agentes de cambio en la economía global.

“El movimiento por la dignidad y la equidad en el trabajo para todas las mujeres es global”, dice Jennifer (JJ) Rosenbaum, directora de Global Labor Justice en los Estados Unidos. “Las mujeres en los EE. UU. No deberían dejar de responsabilizar a las corporaciones de Walmart y los Estados Unidos por lo que sucede en sus tiendas y bodegas de los EE. UU. También debemos exigir responsabilidad a lo largo de sus redes de producción global “.

Tola Meun, Directora Ejecutiva de CENTRAL dice: “La violencia de género es una realidad cotidiana para las trabajadoras de la confección, orientadas a cumplir objetivos de producción poco realistas en las cadenas de suministro de Walmart. La mayoría de estos casos no se informan por temor a represalias en el lugar de trabajo “.

En respuesta a los informes, el Women’s Leadership Committee de Asia Floor Wage Alliance está solicitando a Walmart tres pasos de acción inmediatos:

  1. Apoyar públicamente y comprometerse a implementar de manera proactiva una Recomendación de la Convención de la OIT sobre Violencia de Género que incluya las recomendaciones de Asia Floor Wage Alliance y sus socios.
  2. Reunirse con la (s) reunión (es) regional (es) de Asia organizada por el Comité de Liderazgo Femenino Salarial de Asia en los próximos tres meses para analizar los hallazgos de la cadena de suministros y los próximos pasos.
  3. Trabajar proactivamente con Asia Floor Wage Alliance para llevar a cabo comités de mujeres en fábricas que eliminen la violencia de género y la discriminación de las fábricas proveedoras.

 

 

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: July 2nd, 2018

CONTACT: Nazly Sobhi Damasio, nazly@globallaborjustice.org

Asia Floor Wage Alliance Women Trade Union Leaders Garment Supply Chain Statement

We write as women trade union leaders in the Asia Floor Wage Alliance (AFWA) representing thousands of women garment workers in India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Indonesia and Cambodia. Our members produce clothes for H&M, Gap, Walmart and other well known brands which consumers in the U.S. and Europe wear.

The research we commissioned this year exposed women garment workers in Asia fainting at their workplaces due to malnutrition, exposure to high temperatures, and high levels of chemical substances in poorly ventilated spaces. The physical toll of garment work is exacerbated by violence that inflicts physical, mental, and sexual harm. These experiences of violence are unrelenting. Women workers are forced to work through lunch and into overtime hours that may stretch into the night.

Women workers also reported facing increased harassment and retaliation when they come forward to report to supervisors, auditors and brands. Unions that stand with their women members also face aggressive union busting tactics.

Corporations Cannot Investigate Themselves They Must Work with Women Led Worker Organizations

We commissioned this independent research to show that world what workers, trade unions, and brands already know well. Gender-based violence is prevalent and a consequence of fast fashion supply chain contracting practices. The research also proves how corporate social responsibility and internal audits exist to whitewash the problems. Uncovering and solving these problems requires working with worker organizations to change purchasing practices.

Brands sometimes like to say that violence and exploitation is coming from a few bad supervisors or Asian culture as a whole, but our research showed that it is not the case at all. The research showed how the fast fashion business is based on a business model that uses production targets and so-called competitive pricing to create a captive workforce earning subminimum wages and being forced to work overtime, placing women garment workers at routine risk for gender based violence. To sell clothes so cheap, turn over new styles fast, and deliver such high profits to brand executives and shareholders, suppliers rely on a business model that utilizes the discrimination and exploitation women workers as a cost saving measure.

Help Us Show a New Way Forward with Brands, Suppliers and Trade Unions

We are encouraged that the research has received significant global attention in major news outlets in the U.S., Europe, Asia, Africa and Latin America. We have received numerous messages of support from the women’s movement, trade unions, human rights groups, and others who recognize the problem and demand for it be stopped immediately.

But we need you all to understand the scope of this serious issue and take it a step further.

Now that Gap, H&M, and Walmart have been challenged to recognize what the research shows, they are trying to use their own internal audits and corporate social responsibility to distract from the necessary structural changes that they need to make immediately.

Brands themselves know these internal audits do not work. These are the same audits that have already failed to uncover what our research showed. These are the same auditors that determined Rana Plaza was safe months before it’s collapse, and resulted in the deaths of more than a thousand garment workers, the majority of whom were women.

Our research shows that these internal investigations are used by suppliers to coach women workers and threaten them to not participate in. These are the same corporate programs which address trainings without actually changing the supply chain pressures where gender based violence is common as a method of meeting high production, low cost contracts from the suppliers.

Urge Gap, H&M, and Walmart to Work with AFWA Women Leaders’ Committee to Pilot Projects in the Supply Chain Factories

As women workers and leaders of trade unions who work on their supply chains day after day we don’t just know the problems we know what solutions will work. These jobs are important to us – and we expect them to be decent jobs with living wage salaries, nondiscrimination, and freedom to join and lead worker organizations. These brands cannot do it alone, but together with their suppliers, and trade union leadership we can pilot innovative agreements and practices that enable women workers to lead in their workplaces, communities, and beyond.

Together We Can Remove Barriers So Women Workers Can Drive the Solutions!

We know the problems and the solutions to solving them. And we want our factories and our countries to be models of decent work for women.

If Gap and H&M are serious about commitments to women’s empowerment they and their suppliers should work, locally and regionally, with us women workers and women trade union leaders to pilot programs that change conditions in the factory immediately.

We know that dozens of of trade unions and civil society organisations in Asia and globally support our efforts and we ask our supporters around the world to keep fighting alongside us. Urge Gap, H&M, and Walmart to work side by side with the AFWA Women Leaders’ Committee.

The undersigned (and growing list) of women trade union leaders of Asia Floor Wage Alliance Women Leaders Committee urge H&M, Gap and Walmart to work with us to discuss these supply chain findings and pilot women’s committees in factories that eliminate gender-based violence and discrimination from the supplier factories.

Signed:

  • Asia Floor Wage Alliance Women Leaders’ Committee
  • Yang Sophorn, President, Cambodian Alliance of Trade Unions (CATU), Cambodia
  • Kokom Komalawati, Women and Child Department, National Leadership Committee, Gabungan
  • Serikat Buruh Indonesia(GSBI) (English: Indonesia Joint Trade Unions), Indonesia
  • Sumiyati, National Leadership Committee, Serikat Pekerja Nasional (SPN) (English: National Union of Workers), Indonesia
  • Dian Septi, General Secretary, FBLP-KPBI (Federasi Buruh Lintas Pabrik- Konfederasi
  • Persatuan Buruh Indonesia), Indonesia
  • Rukmini V.P., President, Garment Labour Union, India
  • Rathi, Vice President, Karnataka Garment Workers Union, India
  • Anannya Bhattacharjee, Garment and allied Workers Union, India
  • R.J.K Inoka Damayanthi, Ceylon Mercantile Union (CMU), Sri Lanka
  • Lalitha Ranjanee Dedduwakumara, Textile, Garment and Clothing Workers Union, Sri Lanka
  • P. Kumasi, President, National Free Trade Union, Sri Lanka

 

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CONTACT: Nazly Sobhi Damasio, Global Labor Justice, nazly@globallaborjustice .org

Concerns Raised at PRI’s Responsible Investment Meeting About The International Finance Corporation’s Investments Promotion of Decent Work & Development in the Hospitality Sector

Global Labor Justice issued the following:

SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA At this year’s PRI ,billed as the world’s leading responsible investment conference, Sharan Burrow, General Secretary of the International Trade Union Confederation challenged whether the International Finance Corporation’s (IFC) investments in globally branded hotels actually promote decent work and development. Burrow said, “Development loans must benefit workers — not just global financiers. Development through hospitality sector investments must ensure engagement with trade unions at every level.” Burrow’s comments referenced recent letters sent to the IFC raising concerns various labor issues at hotels Marriott operates for IFC loan recipients.

Loans from the IFC require recipients and entities with whom they contract to ensure labor standards for development on the project under a Performance Standard on Labor and Working Conditions ,updated in 2012. Loan applicants must include an economic and social action plan with their application, disclosing concrete steps to meet the standard at each phase of the project. The IFC makes these publicly available through its online information portal .

The discussion at this year’s PRI signals a change to the “business as usual” approach to private sector investment in the hospitality sector for the IFC and private lenders who invest alongside the IFC. Investors are now on notice to be attentive to how the IFC, its loan recipients, and global brands like Marriott ultimately respond.

In a letter responding to a proposed 45 million USD loan to Ananta Hotels and Resorts Limited for a Marriott Hotel and Residence property in Bangladesh, The International Union of Food, Agricultural, Hotel, Restaurant, Catering, Tobacco and Allied Workers’ Associations (IUF) and human and labor rights NGO Global Labor Justice (GLJ) requested that the IFC conduct additional due diligence before approving the loan, in order to ensure ethical labor standards throughout the life of the project.

In a letter referencing a $20.95 million USD loan to SAMHI Private Limited, covering a wide portfolio of hotels in India, the majority now branded Marriott, Hotel Mazdoor Panchayat, an trade union organizing in hotels, along with human and labor rights NGO Global Labor Justice (GLJ) alleged that the project does not adequately protect workers with relation to freedom of association, gender based violence, limits on contract labor and subcontracting of permanent jobs core to the industry, and living wages that enable workers and their families to afford basic necessities and participate in development.

They asked that the IFC take action to ensure that the loan recipient, SAMHI, and its branded operator Marriott, engage with trade unions as they continue to proceed with the organizing in hotels covered by the project. “We expect SAMHI, Marriott and their financiers to ensure all the hotel workers on this project are paid living wages, with fair working conditions, and freedom of association, and not retaliate against workers for forming unions in their hotel chains.” said Ashim Roy, President of Hotels Mazdoor Panchayat.

Marriott International is the largest hotel chain in the world with more than 6,500 properties in 127 countries and earning more than $22 billion in the 2017 fiscal year , which has funded its global growth in part through these preferential loans. With over 100 managed and/or franchised hotels in India and approximately 50 more under construction and renovation, Marriott’s 22,000 rooms make it the largest branded hotel chain in India.

Marriott could also face potential strikes after 8,000 workers in six cities in the United States voted to authorize strikes. More than 12,000 Marriott workers have had their contracts expire and continue negotiations to secure better standards around job security and safety while demanding the hotel giant provide more for workers who say they often can not afford to live in the cities where Marriott prospers.

Jennifer (JJ) Rosenbaum, U.S. Director of Global Labor Justice, explained that, “The International Finance Corporation is enabling Marriott to export problematic U.S. labor relations policy including ‘right to work’ policies which are at odds with the International Labour Organization’s standards on human and labor rights. We look forward to dialogue with the IFC on best practices to make these projects models for advancing decent work and socially responsible tourism.”

 

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February 22, 2022

Organizations urge U.S. to block imports of fishing nets from Thai companies over evidence of forced prison labor

WASHINGTON – Global Labor Justice – International Labor Rights Forum (GLJ-ILRF) and partner organizations in the Seafood Working Group (SWG) are calling on the Biden Administration to ensure U.S. companies do not import fishing nets made by Thai companies that use forced prison labor.

In a petition submitted to the U.S. government, the organizations say that two Thai companies – Khon Kaen Fishing Net Factory Co., Ltd. (KKF) and Dechapanich Fishing Net Factory Ltd. (Dechapanich) – have made fishing nets under exploitative conditions in Thai prisons. They are calling on the U.S. to investigate and block these companies from selling nets to U.S. corporations.

The groups submitted the petition following an expose by Thai journalist Nanchanok Wongsamuth on the working conditions in Thai prisons, which use inmates to fulfill high-value contracts with Thai companies. Prisoners said that they and hundreds of other inmates were forced to make nets for less than Thai minimum wage if they were paid at all. Prisoners also said they had no protective gear, sustained painful blisters and cuts as they were pushed to meet quotas and were beaten or tortured if they refused to work.

Seafood giant Trident Seafoods, as well as Calusa Trading Co., H. Christiansen Co. (Duluth Nets), and Gramter International USA have purchased fishing nets from KKF, and Fitech International Inc. has bought Dechapanich fishing nets, according to records in an international trade database.

The SWG is calling on Thai and U.S. seafood companies to commit to responsible sourcing and transparency in their supply chains. The global fishing industry is rife with abuse and Thai and international labor rights groups will continue to use all means at their disposal to end forced labor and raise standards for all workers in the industry.

“This is just one of many examples of how multinational corporations scour the globe to source the lowest-priced products, but absolve themselves of responsibility for the human rights abuses their race to the bottom engenders. We’re calling on U.S. companies to ensure that their suppliers respect workers’ rights and for the U.S. government to ban the import of these nets and all products found to be made with forced prison labor or forced labor of any kind. No worker – including prisoners – should be subjected to forced labor,” said Jennifer (JJ) Rosenbaum, Executive Director of GLJ-ILRF.

Thai and international civil society organizations have put together recommendations to the Government of Thailand, the Thai fishing net companies, and U.S. buyers to address abusive working conditions in prisons and to end forced labor in global supply chains.

Background on Thai fishing net production: 

According to interviews with several former prisoners who made fishing nets for KKF, Dechapanich, and other companies, and who witnessed hundreds of other prisoners make nets inside the prison and at company factories, prisoners were required to undertake the work without choice. They were paid a fraction of the minimum wage or nothing at all, performed the work in overcrowded facilities, and sustained painful blisters and cuts from the sharp fibers due to lack of protective gear and being pushed to fill unreasonable quotas.

Those who were unable to meet high production quotas or refused to undertake work faced various forms of physical punishment and torture. One former prisoner explained, “For some prisoners who were more stubborn about doing the work, they were forced to lie down on the hot concrete road, in the sun, without a shirt and had to roll back and forth. Some were also beaten by batons. They had either refused to work at all or couldn’t meet the quota [for fishing nets].” Some prisoners had to go to the hospital outside of the prison because they suffered serious injuries, such as a broken arm or leg.

Prison officials also used the threat of delayed release to compel prisoners to work and ​​repeatedly informed prisoners that they have no rights and that there is no use in filing a complaint. A different former prisoner said, “There was no agreement or contract about wages between the prisoners and the prison. They didn’t explain anything. We had to learn from fellow prisoners. You have to understand this was a ‘twilight land’. They did not look at you as a human being.” The testimonies provide strong evidence of forced labor per U.S. law and the International Labor Organization (ILO)’s indicators of forced labor.

Thailand has a long history of labor exploitation in its prison system, which human rights organizations and the media have reported on in recent years, including the prevalence of punishment and disciplinary measures used against prisoners that could amount to torture. The Thai government has continued to try to hire prisoners in order to fill labor shortages in recent years. This has included a failed policy proposal by the Ministry of Labor in 2015 to recruit prisoners to work on Thai fishing vessels, which are widely known for their rampant human rights abuses. More recently, in 2021, Thailand’s Minister of Justice proposed building industrial estates where companies can hire prisoners to work in seafood processing factories to fill labor shortages arising from the COVID-19 pandemic and to facilitate prison decongestion.

Thailand has struggled to eradicate forced labor from its highly profitable commercial seafood industry. In 2021, Thailand was downgraded to ‘Tier 2 Watch List’ in the U.S. State Department’s annual Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report for ongoing forced labor of migrant workers particularly in the fishing sector. Thai seafood companies and U.S. buyers, too, have developed numerous initiatives to end forced labor in the Thai seafood industry, yet abuses are reportedly ongoing.

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GLJILRF is a newly merged organization that brings strategic capacity to cross-sectoral work on global value chains and labor migration corridors.

The Seafood Working Group (SWG) is a global coalition of human rights, labor and environmental organizations that work together to develop and advocate for effective government policies and industry actions to end the related problems of labor exploitation, illegal fishing and overfishing in the international seafood trade.

Recommendations 

The following recommendations to the Government of Thailand, the Thai fishing net companies, and U.S. buyers have been developed by Thai and international civil society organizations with extensive expertise working to address forced labor in global supply chains.

To the Government of Thailand:

  1. Ensure working conditions in all prisons are consistent with the U.N. Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners (the Nelson Mandela Rules) and the U.N. Rules for the Treatment of Women Prisoners and Non-custodial Measures for Women Offenders (the Bangkok Rules). In particular, the Nelson Mandela Rules state “there shall be a system of equitable remuneration of the work of prisoners,” and “prison labor must not be of an afflictive nature.”
  2. Comply with the U.N. Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, particularly with regard to the state duty to protect human rights and ensure access to remedy through judicial, administrative, and legislative means.
  3. Enforce the “Ministerial Regulation Calculation of monetary income and the payment of reward for inmates where work carried out generates income that can be translated to monetary value B.E. 2563 (2020),” which prescribes for prisoners to receive 70% of the profits from the work they are assigned.
  4. Halt all plans to use prisoners in industrial zones and similar plans to use prisoners to fill labor shortages.
  5. Provide instruction and training to prison officials to end the use of physical violence to force prisoners to work or to meet unreasonable production quotas. As per the Nelson Mandela Rules, “in no circumstances may restrictions or disciplinary sanctions amount to torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. The following practices, in particular, shall be prohibited: (a) Indefinite solitary confinement; (b) Prolonged solitary confinement; (c) Placement of a prisoner in a dark or constantly lit cell; (d) Corporal punishment or the reduction of a prisoner’s diet or drinking water; (e) Collective punishment.”
  6. Conduct regular inspections of prisons and investigate all allegations of human rights violations related to prison labor, then publicly report on the findings and adequately compensate victims of abuses.
  7. Allow independent inspection bodies, including the National Human Rights Commission of Thailand (NHRCT) and the Ombudsman, unfettered access to all prisons, in line with commitments made by Thailand during its second Universal Periodic Review.
  8. Allow non-governmental organizations with a relevant mandate to conduct visits to places of detention, interview inmates, and assess conditions without undue hindrance.                                                                

To the Thai fishing nets companies – KKF and Dechapanich:

  1. Ensure that working conditions in your company’s operations and in your supply chains and business relationships are in accordance with Thai law, international human rights law, and international labor standards.
  2. Comply with the U.N. Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights by undertaking human rights due diligence in all workplaces still under contract with your company or future contracts that are being negotiated. This includes assessing actual or potential abuses, ceasing activities that contribute to abuses, publicizing due diligence policies and activities, and providing effective remedy for any labor violations found.
  3. Cooperate with U.S. buyers to provide remedy for former prisoners who produced fishing nets under exploitative conditions while under contract with your company. In particular, provide compensation for unpaid wages.
  4. Commit to public disclosure of supply chain information in order to ensure greater transparency in supply chains and support frontline organizations in identifying and reporting labor exploitation earlier on.

To the U.S. buyers – Calusa Trading Co., Gramter International, Trident Seafoods, H. Christiansen Co., and Fitec International U.S.:

  1. Comply with the U.N. Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights by undertaking human rights due diligence throughout entire supply chains and in all workplaces still under contract with your company or future contracts that are being negotiated. This includes assessing actual or potential abuses, ceasing activities that contribute to abuses, publicizing due diligence policies and activities, and providing effective remedy for any labor violations found.
  2. Cooperate with KKF and Dechapanich to provide remedy to former prisoners who produced fishing nets under exploitative conditions while under contract with your company. In particular, provide compensation for unpaid wages.
  3. Commit to public disclosure of supply chain information in order to ensure greater transparency in supply chains and support frontline organizations in identifying and reporting labor exploitation earlier on.
  4. Proactively support implementation of the U.S. Seafood Import Monitoring Program (SIMP) to ensure greater transparency in global supply chains and to prevent forced labor-sourced goods from entering the U.S. market.

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22 กุมภาพันธ์ 2565

องค์กรต่าง ๆ เรียกร้องให้รัฐบาลสหรัฐ ฯ ระงับการนำเข้าแหอวนจากบริษัทไทย เนื่องจากหลักฐานบ่งชี้ถึงการบังคับใช้แรงงานในเรือนจำ

กรุงวอชิงตัน ดี.ซี.องค์กร Global Labor Justice – International Labor Rights Forum (GLJ-ILRF) และองค์กรภาคีที่เป็นสมาชิกคณะทำงานด้านอาหารทะเล (Seafood Working Group: SWG) เรียกร้องให้รัฐบาลของนายไบเดนรับประกันว่า บริษัทสัญชาติสหรัฐอเมริกาเลิกนำเข้าแหอวนที่ผลิตโดยบริษัทสัญชาติไทยที่บังคับใช้แรงงานผู้ต้องขัง

องค์กรดังกล่าวได้ยื่นจดหมายต่อรัฐบาลสหรัฐอเมริกา โดยระบุว่า บริษัทไทยจำนวนสองบริษัท ได้แก่ บริษัท ขอนแก่นแหอวน จำกัด และบริษัท โรงงานทออวนเดชาพานิช จำกัด มีการใช้แรงงานในเรือนจำไทยโดยใช้เงื่อนไขที่แสวงหาผลประโยชน์จากแรงงาน องค์กรเหล่านี้เรียกร้องให้ประเทศสหรัฐอเมริกาดำเนินการสืบสวนและป้องกันไม่ให้บริษัทดังกล่าวขายแหอวนให้แก่บริษัทสหรัฐอเมริกา

กลุ่มองค์กรดังกล่าวได้ยื่นจดหมายหลังจากนางสาวนันท์ชนก วงษ์สมุทร นักข่าวชาวไทย เปิดเผยสภาพการทำงานในเรือนจำไทย ซึ่งใช้ผู้ต้องขังเป็นส่วนหนึ่งในการทำสัญญามูลค่าสูงกับบริษัทไทย ผู้ต้องขังกล่าวว่า ตนและเพื่อนผู้ต้องขังอีกหลายร้อยคนถูกบังคับให้ผลิตแหอวนโดยได้ค่าจ้างน้อยกว่าค่าจ้างขั้นต่ำ หรือแม้แต่ไม่ได้รับค่าจ้างเลย ผู้ต้องขังยังกล่าวว่า บริษัทไม่ได้จัดเตรียมอุปกรณ์ป้องกันความปลอดภัย ทำให้เกิดบาดแผลที่เจ็บปวดอย่างยาวนานจากการบังคับให้ทำยอด หรือหากผู้ต้องขังปฏิเสธทำงานก็จะถูกทุบตีหรือทำโทษอย่างทารุณ

ข้อมูลการค้าระหว่างประเทศระบุว่า บริษัทอาหารทะเลยักษ์ใหญ่อย่างเช่นบริษัท Trident Seafoodsรวมถึง Calusa Trading Co., Christiansen Co. (Duluth Nets) และ Gramter International USAเป็นผู้ซื้อผลิตภัณฑ์แหอวนจากบริษัทขอนแก่นแหอวน ส่วนบริษัท Fitech International Inc. ซื้อสินค้าจากบริษัทเดชาพานิช

SWG เรียกร้องให้บริษัทอาหารทะเลไทยและสหรัฐอเมริกามุ่งมั่นดำเนินนโยบายการจัดหาสินค้าที่มีความรับผิดชอบและสร้างความโปร่งใสในห่วงโซ่อุปทานของตัวเอง อุตสาหกรรมประมงนั้นเต็มไปด้วยการละเมิดสิทธิแรงงาน กลุ่มที่ทำงานส่งเสริมสิทธิแรงงานทั้งในไทยและระหว่างประเทศจะดำเนินการอย่างต่อเนื่องทุกวิถีทางที่ทำได้เพื่อยุติการบังคับใช้แรงงานและยกระดับมาตรฐานสำหรับแรงงานในภาคส่วนดังกล่าวทุกคน

“กรณีนี้เป็นหนึ่งในตัวอย่างที่พบได้มากมายของบรรษัทข้ามชาติในการจัดหาผลิตภัณฑ์ราคาถูกจากทั่วโลก โดยปลดเปลื้องความรับผิดชอบของตนเองในการปกป้องการละเมิดสิทธิมนุษยชนที่เกิดจากการดำเนินธุรกิจของตน พวกเราขอเรียกร้องให้บริษัทสหรัฐอเมริการับประกันว่า ซัพพลายเออร์ของตัวเองเคารพสิทธิของแรงงาน และเรียกร้องให้รัฐบาลสหรัฐอเมริกาห้ามการนำเข้าแหอวนและผลิตภัณฑ์อื่น ๆ ที่พบว่ามีการบังคับใช้แรงงานผู้ต้องขังหรือการใช้แรงงานบังคับทุกรูปแบบ ไม่ควรมีแรงงานคนใดรวมถึงผู้ต้องขังที่ต้องเผชิญการบังคับใช้แรงงาน” นางสาวเจนนิเฟอร์ (เจเจ) โรเซนบาม ผู้อำนวยการบริหารของ GLJ-ILRF กล่าว

องค์กรภาคประชาสังคมทั้งไทยและระหว่างประเทศได้รวบรวมข้อเสนอแนะสำหรับรัฐบาลไทย บริษัทแหอวนไทย และผู้ซื้อในสหรัฐอเมริกา เพื่อปรับปรุงสภาพการทำงานในเรือนจำและยุติการบังคับใช้แรงงานในห่วงโซ่อุปทานทั่วโลก

 

สถานการณ์การผลิตแหอวนไทย 

การสัมภาษณ์อดีตผู้ต้องขังที่เคยผลิตแหอวนให้แก่บริษัทขอนแก่นแหอวนและเดชาพานิชและบริษัทอื่น ๆ และเคยพบเห็นผู้ต้องขังอื่น ๆ นับร้อยคนทำงานถักเย็บแหอวนภายในเรือนจำและที่โรงงานของบริษัทชี้ให้เห็นว่า ผู้ต้องขังถูกบังคับให้ทำงานโดยไม่มีทางเลือกโดยได้รับค่าจ้างเพียงเสี้ยวหนึ่งของค่าจ้างขั้นต่ำตามกฎหมายหรือแม้แต่ไม่ได้รับค่าจ้างเลย ต้องทำงานในสถานที่แออัด และได้รับบาดแผลจากเส้นใยถักอวนเนื่องจากขาดอุปกรณ์ป้องกันความปลอดภัยและถูกกดดันให้ทำยอดอย่างไม่สมเหตุสมผล

ผู้ที่ไม่สามารถทำงานตามยอดอันไม่สมเหตุสมผลนี้หรือปฏิเสธการทำงานจะต้องเผชิญกับการทำโทษในรูปแบบต่าง ๆ อดีตผู้ต้องขังรายหนึ่งรายงานว่า “ผู้ต้องขังบางคนที่ดื้อไม่ยอมทำงานจะถูกทำโทษให้ถอดเสื้อนอนกลิ้งบนพื้นคอนกรีตร้อน ๆ กลางแดดไปมา บางคนก็ถูกตีด้วยกระบอง ซึ่งอาจจะเกิดจากการปฏิเสธทำงานหรือไม่สามารถทำตามยอด [ถักอวน] ได้” ผู้ต้องขังบางรายต้องถูกนำไปรักษาที่โรงพยาบาลนอกเรือนจำเนื่องจากได้รับบาดเจ็บสาหัส เช่น แขนหรือขาหัก

เจ้าหน้าที่เรือนจำยังใช้การข่มขู่ว่าจะยืดระยะต้องโทษเพื่อบังคับให้ผู้ต้องขังทำงาน และย้ำแก่ผู้ต้องขังซ้ำ ๆ ว่า พวกเขาไม่มีสิทธิใด ๆ และการยื่นเรื่องร้องเรียนนั้นไม่มีประโยชน์ อดีตผู้ต้องขังอีกรายกล่าวว่า “[เรือนจำ] ไม่มีการทำข้อตกลงหรือสัญญาที่ระบุรายละเอียดค่าจ้างกับผู้ต้องขัง พวกเขาไม่ได้อธิบายอะไรเลย เราทราบรายละเอียดจากเพื่อนผู้ต้องขังคนอื่น คุณต้องเข้าใจว่านี่คือ “ดินแดนสนธยา” เขาไม่ได้มองคุณเป็นมนุษย์” การสัมภาษณ์ให้หลักฐานการบังคับใช้แรงงานที่สำคัญตามกฎหมายของประเทศสหรัฐอเมริกาและตัวชี้วัดการบังคับใช้แรงงานขององค์การแรงงานระหว่างประเทศ (ILO)

ประเทศไทยมีประวัติการแสวงหาผลประโยชน์จากแรงงานในระบบเรือนจำมาเป็นระยะเวลานาน ดังที่องค์กรสิทธิมนุษยชนและสื่อได้รายงานในปีที่ผ่านมา เช่น การใช้การลงโทษและมาตรการทางวินัยต่อผู้ต้องขังอย่างกว้างขวางที่อาจถึงขั้นเป็นการทารุณกรรม รัฐบาลไทยยังคงจ้างแรงงานผู้ต้องขังเพื่ออุดภาวะขาดแคลนแรงงานในประเทศที่เกิดขึ้น อย่างเช่นการเสนอนโยบายโดยกระทรวงแรงงานในปี 2558 เกี่ยวกับการจ้างผู้ต้องขังในการทำงานบนเรือประมง ซึ่งเป็นภาคส่วนที่ทราบกันดีว่ามีการละเมิดสิทธิแรงงานมาก เมื่อเร็ว ๆ นี้ในปี 2564 รัฐมนตรีว่าการกระทรวงยุติธรรมเสนอให้สร้างนิคมอุตสาหกรรมที่บริษัทสามารถจ้างผู้ต้องขังให้มาทำงานในโรงงานแปรรูปอาหารทะเลเพื่อบรรเทาภาวะขาดแคลนแรงงานเนื่องจากการแพร่ระบาดของโรคโควิด 19 และลดความแออัดในเรือนจำ

ประเทศไทยประสบความยากลำบากในการขจัดการบังคับใช้แรงงานในอุตสาหกรรมอาหารทะเลซึ่งสามารถทำกำไรมหาศาล ในปี 2564 กระทรวงต่างประเทศของสหรัฐอเมริกาได้ลดอันดับประเทศไทยเป็น “Tier 2 Watch List” ตามรายงานสถานการณ์การค้ามนุษย์ (Trafficking in Persons Report: TIP Report) เนื่องจากสถานการณ์การบังคับใช้แรงงานข้ามชาติ โดยเฉพาะในภาคประมง แม้ว่าบริษัทอาหารทะเลไทยและผู้ซื้อชาวสหรัฐอเมริกาจะได้พัฒนาความคิดริเริ่มต่าง ๆ ขึ้นมาเพื่อขจัดการใช้แรงงานบังคับในอุตสาหกรรมอาหารทะเลไทย แต่เรายังคงได้รับรายงานเกี่ยวกับการละเมิดสิทธิอย่างต่อเนื่อง

GLJILRF เป็นองค์กรที่รวมตัวกันใหม่และทำงานเพื่อเพิ่มศักยภาพเชิงยุทธศาสตร์ข้ามภาคส่วนในห่วงโซ่มูลค่าโลกและในพื้นที่แนวเชื่อมระหว่างประเทศของการอพยพย้ายถิ่นของแรงงาน

คณะทำงานด้านอาหารทะเล (Seafood Working Group: SWG) เป็นเครือข่ายระดับโลกขององค์กรสิทธิมนุษยชน แรงงาน และสิ่งแวดล้อม ที่ทำงานร่วมกันเพื่อพัฒนาและรณรงค์สนับสนุนนโยบายของรัฐบาลที่มีประสิทธิภาพและการดำเนินการในระดับอุตสาหกรรม เพื่อหยุดปัญหาที่เกี่ยวเนื่องจากการแสวงหาผลประโยชน์จากแรงงาน การประมงผิดกฎหมาย และการประมงเกินขีดจำกัดในการค้าอาหารทะเลระหว่างประเทศ

 

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ข้อเสนอแนะ

ข้อเสนอแนะต่อรัฐบาลไทย บริษัทแหอวนไทย และผู้ซื้อในประเทศสหรัฐอเมริกาต่อไปนี้ถูกพัฒนาโดยองค์กรภาคประชาสังคมไทยและระหว่างประเทศที่มีความเชี่ยวชาญในประเด็นการบังคับใช้แรงงานในห่วงโซ่อุปทานระดับโลก

สำหรับรัฐบาลประเทศไทย

  1. รับประกันว่า สภาพการทำงานของผู้ต้องขังเป็นไปตามข้อกำหนดมาตรฐานขั้นต่ำของสหประชาชาติสำหรับการปฏิบัติต่อผู้ต้องขัง หรือข้อกำหนดเนลสันแมนเดลลา และข้อกำหนดสหประชาชาติว่าด้วยการปฏิบัติต่อผู้ต้องขังหญิงและมาตรการที่มิใช่การคุมขังสำหรับผู้กระทำผิดหญิง หรือข้อกำหนดกรุงเทพ โดยเฉพาะข้อกำหนดเนลสันแมนเดลลาที่ระบุว่า “จัดให้มีระบบจ่ยค่าตอบแทนในการทำงานของผู้ต้องขังอย่างเท่าเทียมและเป็นธรรม” และ “การใช้แรงงานในเรือนจำต้องไม่ก่อให้เกิดความเจ็บปวด”
  2. ปฏิบัติตามหลักการชี้แนะแห่งสหประชาชาติว่าด้วยธุรกิจกับสิทธิมนุษยชน โดยเฉพาะที่เกี่ยวกับหน้าที่ของรัฐในการคุ้มครองสิทธิมนุษยชนและรับประกันการเข้าถึงการเยียวยาด้วยวิธีในกระบวนการทางตุลาการ การปกครอง และนิติบัญญัติ
  3. บังคับใช้ “กฎกระทรวงว่าด้วยการคำนวณรายได้เป็นราคาเงินและการจ่ายเงินรางวัลให้แก่ผู้ต้องขัง ซึ่งการงานที่ได้ทำนั้นก่อให้เกิดรายได้ซึ่งคำนวณเป็นราคาเงินได้ พ.ศ. ๒๕๖๓” ซึ่งกำหนดให้ผู้ต้องขังได้รับเงินเป็นจำนวนร้อยละ 70 ของกำไรทั้งหมดจากงานที่ทำ
  4. หยุดแผนทั้งหมดในการจ้างงานผู้ต้องขังในนิคมอุตสาหกรรม รวมถึงแผนในลักษณะเดียวกันอื่น ๆ ในการจ้างงานผู้ต้องขังเพื่อบรรเทาภาวะการขาดแคลนแรงงาน
  5. ให้คำแนะนำและการฝึกอบรมแก่เจ้าหน้าที่เรือนจำเพื่อหยุดการใช้ความรุนแรงทางกายภาพในการบังคับผู้ต้องขังให้ทำงานหรือทำยอดอันไม่สมเหตุสมผล ข้อกำหนดเนลสันแมนเดลลาระบุว่า “ไม่ว่าในสถานการณ์ใดๆ จะต้องไม่มีการจำกัดเสรีภาพหรือการลงโทษทางวินัยใด ๆ ถึงขั้นเป็นการทรมานและการปฏิบัติหรือการลงโทษอื่น ๆ ที่โหดร้าย ไร้มนุษยธรรม หรือที่ย่ำยีศักดิ์ศรี โดยเฉพาะอย่างยิ่ง การปฏิบัติดังต่อไปนี้ต้องถือเป็นข้อห้าม (ก) การขังเดี่ยวโดยไม่มีกำหนดเวลา (ข) การขังเดี่ยวต่อเนื่องกันเป็นเวลานาน (ค) การบังคับให้ผู้ต้องขังอยู่ในห้องมืดหรือมีการเปิดไฟสว่างตลอด (ง) การลงโทษทางกายหรือการตัดทอนอาหารหรือน้ำดื่มของผู้ต้องขัง (จ) การลงโทษแบบกลุ่ม (Collective punishment)”
  6. ดำเนินการตรวจแรงงานอย่างสม่ำเสมอและสืบสวนข้อกล่าวหาการละเมิดสิทธิมนุษยชนที่เกี่ยวกับการใช้แรงงานในเรือนจำทุกกรณี พร้อมตีพิมพ์รายงานข้อค้นพบและให้การชดเชยเหยื่อการละเมิดอย่างเหมาะสม
  7. ให้คณะกรรมการสิทธิมนุษยชนแห่งชาติ (กสม.) และผู้ตรวจการแผ่นดินสามารถเข้าถึงผู้ต้องขังทุกคนอย่างอิสระ อย่างสอดคล้องกับความมุ่งมั่นของประเทศไทยที่ให้ไว้ในกระบวนการทบทวนสถานการณ์สิทธิมนุษยชน (Universal Periodic Review) รอบที่ 2
  8. ให้องค์กรพัฒนาเอกชนที่มีหน้าที่รับผิดชอบที่เกี่ยวข้องดำเนินการเยี่ยมเยือนสถานที่กักขัง สัมภาษณ์ผู้ต้องขัง และประเมินสภาพการทำงานโดยปราศจากอุปสรรคที่ไม่เหมาะสม

 

สำหรับบริษัทแหอวนไทย บริษัทขอนแก่นแหอวนและบริษัทเดชาพานิช

  1. รับประกันว่า สภาพการทำงานในกิจการของบริษัทของคุณและในห่วงโซ่อุปทานและความสัมพันธ์ทางธุรกิจของบริษัทสอดคล้องกับกฎหมายประเทศไทย กฎหมายสิทธิมนุษยชนระหว่างประเทศ และมาตรฐานแรงงานระหว่างประเทศ
  2. ปฏิบัติตามหลักการชี้แนะแห่งสหประชาชาติว่าด้วยธุรกิจกับสิทธิมนุษยชน โดยดำเนินการตรวจสอบสิทธิมนุษยชนอย่างรอบด้านในสถานประกอบการทุกแห่งที่ยังอยู่ภายใต้สัญญากับบริษัทของคุณ หรือที่กำลังเจรจาสัญญากันอยู่ ซึ่งรวมถึงการประเมินการละเมิดที่เกิดขึ้นหรืออาจเกิดขึ้น หยุดกิจกรรมที่มีส่วนทำให้เกิดการละเมิด เผยแพร่นโยบายและการดำเนินการด้านการตรวจสอบสิทธิมนุษยชนอย่างรอบด้าน และให้การเยียวยาที่มีประสิทธิภาพต่อการละเมิดแรงงานที่พบ
  3. ร่วมมือกับผู้ซื้อในประเทศสหรัฐอเมริกาในการให้การเยียวยาแก่อดีตผู้ต้องขังที่ทำงานถักเย็บแหอวนในสภาพการทำงานที่แสวงหาประโยชน์ภายใต้สัญญาของบริษัทคุณ โดยเฉพาะอย่างยิ่ง ในการให้การชดเชยสำหรับค่าจ้างค้างจ่าย
  4. มุ่งมั่นเผยแพร่ข้อมูลเกี่ยวกับห่วงโซ่อุปทานต่อสาธารณะ เพื่อรับประกันความโปร่งใสในห่วงโซ่อุปทานและสนับสนุนองค์กรด่านหน้าในการระบุและรายงานการแสวงหาประโยชน์จากแรงงานตั้งแต่ต้น

 

สำหรับผู้ซื้อในสหรัฐอเมริกา – Calusa Trading Co., Gramter International, Trident Seafoods, H. Christiansen Co., และ Fitec International U.S.

  1. ปฏิบัติตามหลักการชี้แนะแห่งสหประชาชาติว่าด้วยธุรกิจกับสิทธิมนุษยชน โดยดำเนินการตรวจสอบสิทธิมนุษยชนอย่างรอบด้านตลอดห่วงโซ่อุปทานและในสถานประกอบการทั้งหมดที่ยังอยู่ภายใต้สัญญากับบริษัทของคุณหรือสัญญาในอนาคตที่กำลังอยู่ในขั้นตอนเจรจา ซึ่งรวมถึงการประเมินการละเมิดที่เกิดขึ้นหรืออาจเกิดขึ้น หยุดกิจกรรมที่มีส่วนทำให้เกิดการละเมิด เผยแพร่นโยบายและการดำเนินการด้านการตรวจสอบสิทธิมนุษยชนอย่างรอบด้าน และให้การเยียวยาที่มีประสิทธิภาพต่อการละเมิดแรงงานที่พบ
  2. ร่วมมือกับบริษัทขอนแก่นแหอวนและเดชาพานิชในการให้การเยียวยาอดีตผู้ต้องหาที่ทำงานถักเย็บแหอวนในสภาพการทำงานที่แสวงหาประโยชน์ขณะที่อยู่ภายใต้สัญญากับบริษัทของคุณ โดยเฉพาะอย่างยิ่ง ในการให้การชดเชยสำหรับค่าจ้างค้างจ่าย
  3. มุ่งมั่นเผยแพร่ข้อมูลเกี่ยวกับห่วงโซ่อุปทานต่อสาธารณะ เพื่อรับประกันความโปร่งใสในห่วงโซ่อุปทานและสนับสนุนองค์กรด่านหน้าในการระบุและรายงานการแสวงหาประโยชน์จากแรงงานตั้งแต่ต้น
  4. ให้การสนับสนุนเชิงรุกแก่การนำโครงการการตรวจสอบการนำเข้าอาหารทะเลของประเทศสหรัฐอเมริกา (S. Seafood Import Monitoring Program: SIMP) ไปปฏิบัติ เพื่อรับประกันความโปร่งใสในห่วงโซ่อุปทานระดับโลกและเพื่อป้องกันกาเข้ามาของสินค้าที่มาจากการบังคับใช้แรงงานในตลาดสหรัฐอเมริกา

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Statement from organizations in the Seafood Working Group on Thai Government announcement that it will ban the practice of using forced prison labor to make fishing nets:

“Following a petition our international coalition submitted to the Biden Administration on February 11, alongside media pressure, the Thai government says it will end the use of forced labor in prisons. The petition called on the U.S. government to ban the import of fishing nets made by companies that use forced prison labor in Thailand and came after months of investigative work and legal analysis. This is a victory we share with everyone fighting for workers’ rights in Thailand and in the seafood industry around the world. We will continue our work to ensure Thailand follows through on its pledge. It is commendable that the Department of Corrections will establish labor committees in all of Thailand’s 143 prisons. These could be strengthened through public release of findings and by allowing independent inspection bodies access to all prisons.  We are also calling on U.S. seafood giant Trident Seafoods, which bought nets from one of the implicated companies, to commit to upholding international labor rights standards, to conduct human rights due diligence throughout its entire supply chain, and to provide effective remedy to workers for any labor violations found.”

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GLJILRF is a newly merged organization that brings strategic capacity to cross-sectoral work on global value chains and labor migration corridors.

The Seafood Working Group (SWG) is a global coalition of human rights, labor and environmental organizations that work together to develop and advocate for effective government policies and industry actions to end the related problems of labor exploitation, illegal fishing and overfishing in the international seafood trade. 

For Immediate Release

March 24, 2022

Contact: Rachel Cohen, racohen78@gmail.com, 917-370-8464

Global Labor Justice – International Labor Rights Forum Sues Global Tuna Giant Bumble Bee Over False Advertising of ‘Fair and Safe’ Fishing Practices

WASHINGTON D.C. – Global Labor Justice – International Labor Rights Forum (GLJ-ILRF) today announced it filed suit against Bumble Bee Foods, LLC – North America’s largest canned tuna brand and subsidiary of Fong Chun Formosa Fishery Company, Ltd. (FCF), a Taiwan-based seafood trader ranked as one of the top three in the world – over its false and deceptive marketing claims that it sources its tuna through a “fair and safe supply chain.”

GLJ-ILRF’s lawsuit alleges significant evidence that the canned-fish giant’s supply chain is rife with forced labor and worker safety violations and demands Bumble Bee show that advertising is backed up by meaningful practices to protect workers, or otherwise cease making the deceptive marketing claims.

“Bumble Bee’s false and misleading advertising is bad for workers and bad for consumers who want to buy ethically sourced products,” said Jennifer (JJ) Rosenbaum, Executive Director of GLJ-ILRF. “There is a growing concern by consumers and the public about conditions faced by workers who produce global food supply chains. These workers should be able to work in decent conditions and provide a stable life for their families. At GLJ-ILRF, we will continue to expose false claims and demand meaningful action.”

The lawsuit details evidence that Bumble Bee and its main supplier and parent company FCF have a long history of engaging in or allowing unfair and dangerous labor practices in the commercial fishing of the tuna consumers find behind the Bumble Bee label. Fishing vessels in FCF’s supply chain employ fishing methods that are inherently dangerous, such as distant water fishing and transhipment. Working conditions in supply chains reportedly involve up to 34-hour workdays, inadequate sleep, withheld wages, and little to no food. In addition, there have been various documented instances of forced labor; illegal, unreported, unregulated (IUU) fishing; and even deaths of workers.

Despite the well-documented abuses, which are detailed in the complaint, Bumble Bee’s marketing and advertising claim the company is “best-in-class” when it comes to worker safety standards and that its “mission” is to “champion sustainable fishing” throughout its supply chain.

“Deceptive marketing practices that falsely claim to ensure fair labor and worker safety standards are an impediment to meaningful efforts for change,” said Kimberly Rogovin, Senior Seafood Campaign Coordinator at GLJ-ILRF. “As a market leader, Bumble Bee is able to use its ‘fair and safe’ claims to convince wide swaths of consumers without needing to change its company’s purchasing habits, and to shut out the efforts of advocacy groups and competitors for genuine reform.”

GLJ-ILRF brought suit under the District of Columbia Consumer Protection Procedures Act, which allows public interest non-profit organizations to bring consumer protection claims on behalf of consumers and the general public. GLJ-ILRF is represented in this case by Richman Law & Policy.

For more information on labor abuse in seafood supply chains, see GLJ-ILRF’s report Labor Abuse in Taiwan’s Seafood Industry & Local Advocacy for Reform, which illustrates egregious human rights abuses in Taiwan’s fishing industry, and Time for a Sea Change, which discusses the problem of forced labor in the Thai seafood industry. More background information is also available here.

You can find a copy of the lawsuit here

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GLJILRF is a non-profit public-interest organization dedicated to achieving dignity and justice for workers worldwide. GLJ-ILRF focuses on enforcing labor rights and promoting decent work conditions consistent with best practices and ILO standards in the low-wage sections of global supply chains such as commercial fishing. GLJ-ILRF engages in research, policy work, advocacy, and education of the public and consumers.