Archive

For Immediate Release

July 28, 2022

Contact:

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

Equidem: Amanda Sperber: asperber@equidem.org // +1 914 484 8854

REPORT: Qatar Hotels Hosting Teams & Fans at World Cup Exploited and Abused Migrant Workers

‘We Work Like Robots’ details workers’ stories of wage theft, discrimination, dangerous conditions and gender-based violence and harassment at 32 FIFA partner hotels employing an estimated 10,000 workers.

Register for the Press Conference on 28 July at 2PM BST 

For nine months, we were made to work for more than 12 hours a day, without a day off. In order to keep our hours hidden, we were prevented from clocking in and clocking out. I was on the verge of going insane,”  said an Indian worker at the Holiday Villa Hotel and Residence, Doha, a FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 partner hotel.

LONDON – FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 (“Qatar World Cup”) hotel managers exploited and violated the rights of thousands of migrant workers from Africa and Asia, according to a new investigation released today by Equidem and Global Labor Justice-International Labor Rights Forum (GLJ-ILRF). 

The groups detail significant labour and human rights violations they found at most of the hotels that employ an estimated 9,000-10,000 workers who will host World Cup teams, spectators and corporate sponsors later this year.

Field  investigators – themselves migrant workers – interviewed 80 workers over two years. Women and men from Africa and Asia working at World Cup hotels describe—in their own words—the sexual harassment, nationality- and gender-based discrimination, wage theft, health and safety risks, sudden loss of employment, and illegal recruitment charges they faced in their work.  Qatar’s laws and policies fuel these rights violations: Workers are denied the fundamental right to associate, subjected to intensive surveillance and employer control, and fear retaliation—including employer-instigated deportation—for defending their rights and interests.

The report details widespread systematic abuse and exploitation, including:

  • Wage theft, including unilateral cuts in pay of up to 75% and unpaid, forced overtime.
  • Nationality-based wage discrimination at all 32 of the hotels designated as FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 hospitality partners.
  • Widespread reports of coworkers and guests subjecting women workers to gender based violence and harassment, including inappropriate touching and sexual propositions.
  • Stolen COVID premium pay: workers said they were promised double wages to work with COVID-19 positive people, but those wages were stolen, and workers were never paid for assuming serious health risks.

“Four months before the 2022 FIFA World Cup is played in Qatar, migrant workers in the World Cup partner hotels report a pattern of gender based violence and harassment, discrimination, wage theft, and fear of retaliation if they come forward.” said Jennifer (JJ) Rosenbaum, GLJ-ILRF Executive Director. “These reports expose the failed model of corporate social responsibility models (“CSR”)- where corporations have sole responsibility to monitor and enforce their own interpretations of labour standards.  We invite an immediate dialogue with FIFA and its partner hotels about the steps necessary to raise and maintain workplace conditions at or above international labor standards and the fundamental role of labour and human rights organizations in this process. Without this, hotel workers will continue to face daily violations of international labor standards and the players and fans who stay at these hotels will be complicit in an extractive business model that puts profit over people.”

The report is based on research conducted from February 2020 to July 2022 and documents significant labour and human rights violations in 13 out of 17 of FIFA’s partner hotel groups. These international brands employ thousands of migrant workers from countries including Bangladesh, Ghana, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Morocco, Nepal, the Philippines, Thailand, and Uganda.

Migrant workers are at significant risk of discrimination and exploitation because of the extreme power imbalances between migrant workers and employers in Qatar. The nationality-based hierarchies in Qatar are entrenched by policies that deny migrant workers paths to long-term residency or permanent citizenship. In this context, migrant workers require forums for collective action to safeguard their rights and promote their interests.

“Despite an upsurge in rights-protection initiatives by FIFA and Qatar over the last two years, workers across most World Cup hotels have reported a troubling pattern of abuse and fears of reprisal for speaking out. Our research indicates that thousands of migrant workers at World Cup hotels are owed compensation for illegal recruitment charges, unpaid wages and overtime, and other harms suffered in Qatar,” said Mustafa Qadri, CEO of Equidem. “With less than four months until kick-off, the Qatar World Cup is facing an exploitation crisis that neither FIFA, Qatar, nor their hotel partners can hide behind audits and expert partnerships.”

Equidem and GLJ-ILRF call on FIFA, Qatar authorities and their World Cup partners to ensure hotel workers who have faced discrimination, exploitation and other harms are provided a remedy consistent with international recognized responsible business and human rights practices.

Equidem and GLJ-ILRF further call for the establishment of a genuinely independent Migrant Worker Centre in Qatar as a necessary step towards advancing freedom of association and creating a modern, rights-respecting labour system in the country.

“A top-down, heavily state-controlled labour reform process is inhibiting efforts to improve respect for migrant worker rights at Qatar World Cup hotels, despite the critical help of international trade union bodies, UN agencies and other experts,” Qadri said. “Qatar must respect its international obligations to respect freedom of association rights so that migrant workers have the space to safely voice concerns about their treatment.”

Over 800 workers were contacted in an attempt to understand their experience but only 80 replied, which suggests the exploitation and abuse is widely underreported.

Read the full report here

Equidem and GLJ-ILRF will host a press conference today at 2pm BST/ 9am ET to offer more detail and answer questions about the report. Register here.

Contact
Equidem: Amanda Sperber: asperber@equidem.org // +1 914 484 8854
GLJ-IRLF: Rachel Cohen, racohen78@gmail.com // +1 917-370-8464

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Equidem is a human rights and labour rights charity working globally and locally to promote the rights of marginalised communities, accountability for serious violations, and building the human rights movement. Our team of experts and field investigators expose injustice, provide solutions for the most intractable human rights challenges and work closely with grassroots and global civil society to empower the individual and the community.

Global Labor JusticeInternational Labor Rights Forum (GLJ-ILRF) is a new merged organization bringing strategic capacity to cross-sectoral work on global value chains and labour migration corridors. GLJ-ILRF holds global corporations accountable for labour rights violations in their supply chains; advances policies and laws that protect decent work and just migration; and strengthens freedom of association, new forms of bargaining, and worker organizations.

For Immediate Release

July 19, 2022

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

Seafood Labor Activists Blast US for Thailand, Taiwan Rankings in TIP Report That Gives a Pass to Widespread Worker Abuses

Seafood Labor Activists Blast US for Thailand, Taiwan Rankings in TIP Report That Gives a Pass to Widespread Worker Abuses

Washington D.C. – Global Labor Justice-International Labor Rights Forum (GLJ-ILRF) and allies in the Seafood Working Group (SWG) today said the U.S. government has given a pass to Thailand and Taiwan on widespread abuses in the countries’ fishing and seafood processing sectors by upgrading them in its latest Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report.

“We are dismayed and disappointed that the U.S. State Department is in effect condoning and rewarding the Thai and Taiwanese governments’ failures to meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking. We have documented widespread abuses of migrant workers and forced labor in the fishing industry in both countries and we will continue to fight with local and international allies to eradicate them and help all workers ensure the right to advocate for themselves, form unions and bargain collectively,” said Kimberly Rogovin, Senior Seafood Campaign Coordinator of GLJ-ILRF.

For years, the SWG has urged the U.S. government to use its diplomatic and economic power to demand companies around the world respect labor rights if they want access to the U.S. market. This year the group issued reports on Thailand and Taiwan, outlining abuses in the seafood industry and calling for them to be ranked Tier 2 Watch List and Tier 2, respectively.

Instead, the U.S. State Department announced today its decision to upgrade Thailand to Tier 2 and to maintain Taiwan at Tier 1.

According to the State Department’s report, the key reason for the Thailand upgrade appears to be the increased number of trafficking investigations. Increasing investigations is needed, the SWG says, but it is not a significant indicator of improvement when the government maintains discriminatory legal frameworks and fails to promote and protect labor rights for vulnerable categories of workers.

“The upgrade to Tier 2 was not warranted as Thailand still restricts migrant workers’ fundamental rights to freedom of association and collective bargaining. All humans are entitled to the right to form a trade union or association in order to collectively bargain, irrespective of their nationality. Respecting these rights can mitigate social conflicts and reduce the risks of falling victim to human trafficking. For work to be decent, the Thai government must guarantee the rights to freedom of association and collective bargaining,” said Suthasinee Kaewleklai, Coordinator at Migrant Workers Rights Network in Thailand.

The SWG says that the State Department should not have upgraded Thailand until it makes critical reforms. They are calling on the Thai government to:

  1. Ensure full rights to freedom of association and collective bargaining for all workers in line with international standards;

  2. Establish long-term, comprehensive labor migration protections for migrants that effectively ban recruitment fees and eliminates private employment agencies from the process;

  3. Withdraw the Draft Act on the Operations of Not-for-Profit Organizations;

  4. Ensure victim-centered and trauma-informed prosecutions;

  5. Establish regular, rigorous labor inspections; and

  6. Provide legal guidance to law enforcement officials so they can effectively identify the crimes of human trafficking and forced labor.

 

“The Thai government proclaims its dedication to stamping out human trafficking, but at the same time, it is pushing forward a draft law on non-profit organizations with onerous restrictions on NGOs that will effectively wipe out many of the civil society groups who are working on the front line of anti-trafficking response. The U.S. government and other governments who care about stopping human trafficking in the Mekong sub-region should intervene to tell Thailand to drop that rights-abusing NGO law before it’s too late,” said Phil Roberston, Deputy Director for Asia, Human Rights Watch.

“Myanmar people are struggling to survive under the military dictatorship that has forced many to flee in search of work to support themselves and family back home. Companies in the global seafood supply chain in Thailand and elsewhere have taken advantage of desperate migrants, denying them of their rights and forcing them to work under abusive conditions for little pay. The Thai government has turned a blind eye to trafficking and maintained unsafe migration channels. We need the U.S. to keep up an international campaign to help Myanmar people and other migrants win full rights under the law,” said Htoo Chit,  Founder and Director, Foundation for Education and Development (FED).

SWG Says Taiwan Hasn’t Taken Sufficient Steps to Protect Migrant Fishers

The SWG has also called out abuses in the Taiwanese fishing industry, sharing its own recent findings, including the government’s failure to conduct timely investigations into the working conditions on the Da-Wang and Chin-Chun No. 12 vessels– despite strong indicators of human trafficking– until the U.S. government issued a trade ban. The SWG report also found that the government had not taken the necessary steps to identify and protect survivors through provision of services, nor did it administer labor inspections on distant water fishing vessels, which has allowed companies to keep victims hidden and outside the government’s safety net.

“As a human rights organization that maintains long-standing concerns about the abusive labor conditions of the migrant fishers on Taiwanese vessels, the Taiwan Association for Human Rights strongly disagrees with the U.S. Department of State’s decision to maintain Taiwan’s Tier 1 ranking. This not only fails to reflect the severity of human trafficking and forced labor in Taiwan, but also fails to effectively encourage the Taiwanese government to take further action against human trafficking,” said Yi-Hsiang, Shih, Secretary General of Taiwan Association for Human Rights (TAHR).

“It is disappointing, but not surprising, to see the Tier 1 grading in the TIP Report once again. The U.S. government should be able to look past the government’s public relations efforts and see the real situation. The fact is: most of the discrimination, forced labor, human trafficking, and violations of human and labor rights of migrant workers has not changed at all. A small raise in the minimum wage for domestic workers and distant water fishermen—who have been excluded from the Labor Standard Act and the general minimum wage until now—cannot make up for their ongoing exploitation that the Tier 1 grading fails to recognize. Geopolitics should be separate from human rights,” said Lennon Ying-Dah Wong, Director of the Department of Policies on Migrant Workers, Serve the People Association, Taoyuan (SPA).

“While Taiwan remains at Tier 1, the government will not be forced to face the music that there are victims of human rights exploitation in our society. Migrant fishers will still be discriminated against under the law and exploited by manning agencies and boat captains. The abuse of migrant workers will remain hidden from the international community,” said Jason Lee, Member of the Fishermen Service Section at Rerum Novarum Center in Taiwan.

 

The SWG has asked the U.S. Department of State’s Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons (TIP Office) to support the following recommendations to the Taiwanese government. The members aver to continue to press the governments of the U.S. and Taiwan to address these issues:

  1. Abolish the overseas employment scheme for migrant fishers and ensure all migrant fishers are governed by the Ministry of Labor and thus afforded the same rights and protections as Taiwanese fishers.

  2. Establish a clear timeline for swift and full domestication and implementation of the ILO Work in Fishing Convention, 2007 (No. 188).

  3. Increase inspections on vessels of Taiwan-owned and flagged as well as Taiwan-owned and foreign flagged vessels, and prosecute the owners and senior crew suspected of forced labor, especially among the distant water fishing vessels.

  4. Deploy labor inspection personnel in foreign ports where Taiwan’s distant water fishing vessels are authorized to port, and train all maritime-related inspection authorities on victim identification and law enforcement.

  5. Increase transparency in the fishery sector by requiring disclosure of vessel position, 100% observer coverage, and ensuring the safety of all observers on all fishing vessels.

“Over the past 13 years, the Taiwanese government has designed numerous action plans and regulations just to maintain the minimum standards and keep Taiwan at Tier 1, but it has never taken any concrete action to prevent human trafficking of migrant fishers. Until the government actually implements the international labor conventions and domestic regulations it has committed to, uses public power to protect labor, and no longer condones the exploitation of labor by employers, they do not deserve the Tier 1 ranking,” said Allison Lee, Secretary-General of the Yilan Migrant Fishermen’s Union (YMFU) in Taiwan.

Frontline Taiwanese NGOs will hold an online press conference on the TIP Report on Thursday, 21 July 10:00-11:00AM Taiwan (20 July 10:00-11:00PM US EDT)

Hosted by: Coalition for the Protection of Human Rights of Migrant Fishers in Taiwan in collaboration with the Seafood Working Group (SWG)

You can join Thursday at: https://us06web.zoom.us/j/84545821384?pwd=NC8rWlBMMWUwS2tRdDZwdk5IbUJrUT09

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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 International Labour Organization (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.

 

Chaired by GLJ-ILRF, 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 forced labor, illegal fishing and overfishing in the international seafood trade.

For Immediate Release

May 22, 2022

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

Labor Groups Supporting Indian Garment Workers Call On More Global Brands to Join Landmark Dindigul Agreement to End GBVH

Guardian Breaks Story on Gender Based Violence and Harassment Endemic in Clothing Supply Chains

Tirupur, India– The Tamil Nadu Textile and Common Labour Union (TTCU), the Asia Floor Wage Alliance (AFWA), and Global Labor Justice-International Labor Rights Forum (GLJ-ILRF) today called on more global brands to join H&M in signing the groundbreaking Dindigul Agreement to Eliminate Gender-Based Violence and Harassment (GBVH), which will empower 5,000 mostly female Dalit workers to protect themselves and their coworkers in spinning mills and garment cut and sew facilities.

New reporting in the Guardian details how global fashion supply chains are built on widespread gender-based violence and harassment across Asia.

TTCU, AFWA and GLJ-ILRF have a long history of organizing with and supporting the workers who are fighting back. We launched the Justice for Jeyasre campaign in 2021 when Jeyasre Kathiravel, a young garment worker and union member in TTCU was murdered after facing months of sexual harassment by her supervisor. 

Thanks to the movement we built with workers in India and around the world, in April, factory owner Eastman Exports Global Clothing Private Limited, the TTCU, AFWA and GLJ-ILRF, along with H&M Group (H&M), announced the Dindigul Agreement, a set of accords that jointly commit all parties to work together to eradicate GBVH and discrimination based on caste, or migration status; support women workers in collectively detecting, remediating and preveniting GBVH on the shopfloor, to increase transparency; and to develop a culture of mutual respect in the garment factory and beyond.

In the Dindigul Agreement, H&M has agreed to a regular review mechanism in deciding its level of sourcing based on Eastman’s fulfillment of the provisions of the agreement, other brands, especially those who were sourcing from Eastman at the time of Jeyasre’s death should follow suit, meet with us and sign on. 

A joint statement from the original signing parties is available here

Labor stakeholders are also in dialogue with other brands sourcing from Eastman Exports’ Natchi facilities in the past two years including Walmart, M&S, and Authentic Brands Group (which owns Lucky Brand Jeans, Brooks Brothers, Forever 21, Izod, and others)- along with BlackRock a major investor in Authentic- about joining the agreement consistent with responsible business practices under the UN Guiding Principles on business and human rights.  Together with the labor stakeholders and Eastman, brands and investors who join the agreement would be contributing towards a model for the industry. 

When reporting workplace problems leads brands to pull orders, working women  are left to choose between sexual harassment or unemployment.  All brands who say they want their supply chain free of gender based violence and harassment now have a clear choice to source from units covered by the Dindigul agreement or to talk with us about its expansion.” said Jennifer (JJ) Rosenbaum, Executive Director of GLJ-ILRF. “For brand investors like BlackRock, this is also a concrete way to make their environmental, social and governance commitments (ESG)  commitments real.” 

“For the first time, workers have an agreement that empowers us to fight back collectively against violence and harassment at work. Garment workers have long felt that we have to accept harassment as part of our jobs– we get fired by our employers when we speak out against it and the big brands whose clothing we make, don’t take responsibility. Under this agreement, Eastman commits to zero tolerance for GBVH and to working with us to remediate any harassment that occurs. H&M commits to use business leverage create support and accountability for that promise. More brands should follow their lead and sign on. Let it be a model for India and the globe so all garment workers are empowered and protected,” said Jeeva M, General Secretary, TTCU.

“The Dindigul Agreement is transformative because it incentivises suppliers to protect workers rights and eliminate GBVH. Now is the time for more global fashion companies to be part of the solution to violence and harassment by sourcing from factories that confront these issues head on as Eastman has agreed to do. Suppliers and brands should support worker-led processes to address GBVH and recognize workers’ rights to organize in unions. Too often, when abuses are brought to light, brands will try to save their reputation by pulling out of the factory, victimizing workers a second time as they lose their jobs,” said Anannya Bhattacharjee, AFWA International Coordinator.

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Tamil Nadu Textile and Common Workers Union (TTCU) is an independent, Dalit women-led trade union of textile workers organizing to end GBVH, wage theft, and caste-based violence in garment factories.  

 

Asia Floor Wage Alliance (AFWA) is an Asian labour-led global labour and social alliance across garment producing countries (such as India, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Cambodia, Bangladesh) and consumer regions (USA and Europe) for addressing poverty level wages, gender-based violence, and freedom of association in global garment production networks. 

 

Global Labor Justice – International Labor Rights Forum (GLJ – ILRF) is a non-governmental organization that works transnationally to advance policies and laws that protect decent work; to strengthen freedom of association and workers’ ability to advocate for their rights; and to hold corporations accountable for labor rights violations in their supply chains. 

For Immediate Release

April 1, 2022

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

Landmark Dindigul Agreement to Eliminate Gender-Based Violence and Harassment at Eastman Exports Natchi Apparels with the Support of Global Allies

Tirupur, India (April 1, 2022) – Today Eastman Exports Global Clothing Private Limited, the Tamil Nadu Textile and Common Labour Union, the Asia Floor Wage Alliance, and Global Labor Justice- International Labor Rights Forum, along with H&M Group (H&M), jointly announce the groundbreaking Dindigul Agreement to Eliminate Gender-Based Violence and Harassment (GBVH), in the first year reaching 5,000 mostly female workers in spinning mills and garment cut and sew facilities.

These stakeholders have signed as set of agreements which jointly commit to work together from their supply chain role to eradicate discrimination based on gender, caste, or migration status; to increase transparency; and to develop a culture of mutual respect in the garment factory setting.

The agreement draws language from the International Labor Organization’s Convention 190 concerning the elimination of violence and harassment in the workplace and strongly protects freedom of association and the rights of Dalit women workers. Tirupur is known as India’s textile spinning capital and is the largest producer of cotton yarn in India, employing over 280,000 workers total.

“All our employees deserve safety and respect at work,” said Subhash Tiwari, CEO of Eastman Exports, one of the largest clothing manufacturers in Tirupur, India. “It is our hope that this unique agreement and partnership will not only positively impact Natchi’s valued workforce but will also serve as a model for other garment factories.”

The agreement includes an innovative program known as “Safe Circles” with regular training for all workers, supervisors, and managers; a peer education program; and shop floor monitors to detect and report GBVH. The program will be anchored by Tamil Nadu Textile and Common Labour Union (TTCU), a women-led independent and majority Dalit trade union of textile workers. The Asia Floor Wage Alliance (AFWA), an alliance of trade unions and labor organizations representing garment workers across Asia and Global Labor Justice- International Labor Rights Forum (GLJ-ILRF), a global human and labor rights advocacy organization focused on eliminating GBVH have joined as signatories and will support these efforts.

As a part of the agreement, Eastman Exports will amend its internal policies and procedures including to strengthen the Internal Complaints Committee (ICC) and establish an independent grievance mechanism overseen by third-party experts.

“This agreement delivers power and support to women workers to monitor, prevent and remediate GBVH collectively and with management,” said Jeeva M, General Secretary of TTCU. “We will use this as a model to organize against GBVH and caste-based discrimination industry wide.”

Anannya Bhattacharjee, the International Coordinator of AFWA said, “The leadership and commitment of the Dalit women-led trade union TTCU has led to this historic agreement, which puts forth a model of how fashion brands, suppliers and trade unions can work together to prevent and remediate GBVH in Asian garment supply chains. We are happy to be partnering with H&M and Eastman Exports in the implementation of this agreement, which offers a multi- faceted approach to achieving violence-free workplaces.”

“This agreement is a model for the role brands, suppliers, and labor partners have in eliminating gender-based violence from supply chains and promoting freedom of association,” says Jennifer (JJ) Rosenbaum, Executive Director of GLJ-ILRF. “Brands play a critical role by using commercial relationships and business leverage to reduce the existing risk of GBVH, incentivizing suppliers to comply with remediation. We urge all brands to sign similar agreements, join this model and replicate it across the industry.”

H&M recognizes the critical role of enabling collaboration between all stakeholders to reduce risks of GBVH, including at the intersection of gender and caste as well as of freedom of association violations, that contribute to GBVH in the garment industry. H&M wants to use its size and scale to influence the industry in a positive way. H&M will, for example, contribute financially to develop awareness trainings for management and workers, an independent and trustworthy grievance mechanisms run by an independent assessor, and a framework for measuring and reporting impact. The ambition is to find solutions that can be brought to scale at industry level.

In signing this agreement, all stakeholders honor the loss of a young garment worker, TTCU member, and Eastman employee, Jeyasre Kathrivel, whose life was tragically cut short as a result of GBVH. We honor her legacy through this important agreement and ultimately meaningful change across the garment industry.

Foley Hoag attorneys, Gare Smith and Allison Anderson, advised Eastman Exports, and worked with TTCU, AFWA and GLJ-ILRF on this agreement.

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Eastman Exports Global Clothing Private Limited is one of the leading apparel manufacturers in India, perfectly positioned to stay on the top in the fashion world as the most preferred and trusted knitwear manufacturers in India. Eastman’s journey from a modest growth at the time of its inception to its current business volume is a complete testimony to the clarity of vision and the quantum of energy that propels the company. For more information, contact: Alagesan Senniappan alagesan@eastmanexports.com; Poornakala poornakala@eastmanexports.com

Tamil Nadu Textile and Common Workers Union (TTCU) is an independent, Dalit women-led trade union of textile workers organizing to end GBVH, wage theft, and caste-based violence in garment factories.  For more information, contact: Thivya Rakini info.ttcu@gmail.com

Asia Floor Wage Alliance (AFWA) is an Asian labour-led global labour and social alliance across garment producing countries (such as India, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Cambodia, Bangladesh) and consumer regions (USA and Europe) for addressing poverty level wages, gender-based violence, and freedom of association in global garment production networks. For more information, contact Nandita Shivakumar nandita.s@asia.floorwage.org.

Global Labor Justice – International Labor Rights Forum (GLJ – ILRF) is a non-governmental organization that works transnationally to advance policies and laws that protect decent work; to strengthen freedom of association and workers’ ability to advocate for their rights; and to hold corporations accountable for labor rights violations in their supply chains. For more contact Sahiba Gill, sahibagill@globallaborjustice.org.

Foley Hoag, LLP is counsel to Eastman. Legal services were provided by the Global Business & Human Rights practice, which helps clients align their business practices with the U.N. Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. For more information contact Gare Smith, gsmith@foleyhoag.com.

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.

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. 

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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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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GLJ-ILRF Statement on Gabriel Boric’s Presidential Victory in Chile

“In what can only be seen as another historic victory for working people, youth, women and migrants in Chile, Gabriel Boric, a former leader of the student movement and face of a new prorgressive coalition won a decisive election on December 19. For years Chile has been going through a process of social, cultural and political transformation away from the Neoliberal model imposed by the Pinochet dictatorship, which generated one of the most unequal societies in the world. Chileans have been confronting and rising up against this system with mass mobilizations by the student, pensioneer and feminist movements. The massive protests of 2019 culminated in an agreement to hold elections for a Constitutional Convention. The convention was not only democratically elected for the first time in Chilean history, but it was also the first of its kind anywhere in the world composed of 50% women. The writing of the new constitution is mandated to conclude in 2022 with a referendum. 

Gabriel Boric’s victory thus presents significant reassurance that the constitutional process will continue unimpeded, which entails a high probability that labor rights will be enshrined in the magna carta. Furthermore, it creates enormous and unparalleled opportunities for organizing and power-building for social movements and labor unions in the short to mid-term. Combined, the constitutional process and the pro-labor policies of the Boric administration have the potential to create an environment that is extraordinarily conducive for the development of transformative organizing projects. It is fair to say there has never been a time in which Chilean workers had a better chance to drastically change their working conditions for years to come.

Strengthening organizations on the ground that are at the forefront of this struggle and supporting the constitutional process continues to be a priority for GLJ-ILRF, as we believe it is only through organized people power that long-standing and deep labor justice can be won and sustained. We are proud, committed and excited to collaborate with our partners in Chile as they continue their hard and painstaking efforts of transitioning away from neoliberalism into a rights-based society of justice and dignity for working people.

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Global Labor Justice – International Labor Rights Forum (GLJ – ILRF) is a newly merged organization bringing strategic capacity to cross-sectoral work on global value chains and labor migration corridors. GLJ-ILRF holds global corporations accountable for labor rights violations in their supply chains, advances policies and laws that protect decent work and just migration, and strengthens freedom of association, new forms of bargaining, and worker organizations.

GLJ-ILRF Files Amicus Brief on the Devastating Impacts of President Trump’s Latest Immigration Ban on Migrant Workers and their Families

GLJ-ILRF files amicus brief to protect the rights of migrant workers and their families and ensure the United States adopts immigration policies that are consistent with international human rights standards. 

Today, Global Labor JusticeInternational Labor Rights Forum (GLJ-ILRF) filed a brief in Gomez v. Trump, No. 20-05292 (U.S.D.C.) highlighting the devastating human and labor rights impact on migrant workers and their families of President Trump’s June 22, 2020 proclamation banning the entry of migrant workers. The Trump administration estimates that this ban will block nearly 525,000 migrant workers and their families from entering the US. Research shows that at least 1.42 million temporary foreign workers live and work annually in the U.S. across visa categories, sectors, and wage levels.

The amicus (friend of the court) brief highlights the U.S.’ international commitments that require it to ensure access to safe channels of migration and to protect migrant’s rights to due process and family integrity. But this policy separated migrant workers who had established their personal and professional lives in the U.S., from their families, including U.S. born children, without notice or minimal due process protections. As a result, these migrant workers, who had relied on U.S. immigration policies and invested significant time and resources into obtaining a work visa, are being pushed closer to poverty under internationally recognized standards of social, economic, and cultural rights.  

The U.S.’s failure to conduct the appropriate human rights due diligence before issuing the ban and its failure to respond to human rights violations when they arose is also highlighted by the amicus (friend of the court) brief. The amicus brief also includes examples of workers and their families in India and Colombia that have been harmed by the ban.  

“Human rights law and international labor standards must guide national action on labor migration programs. The Trump Administration’s failure to conduct human and labor rights due diligence before issuing the Covid Related Visa Ban left migrant workers without work, in debt recruitment fees, and in some cases separated from family,” said Jennifer (JJ) Rosenbaum, Executive Director of GLJILRF.  “The U.S. should establish labor migration programs that ensure decent work and just migration and be consistent even in times of uncertainty. This visa ban is another example of xenophobic action disguised by false claims of health, security and economic nationalism. Trump’s rhetoric and policy are backwards–protecting the working conditions, wages, and freedom of association of all workers across linked labor markets is how we avoid a race to the bottom where all workers lose.”

GLJ-ILRF is represented in the filing of the amicus brief by the International Human Rights Law Clinic, UC Berkeley, School of Law including Professor Roxanna Altholz and Clinical Teaching Fellow Astha Sharma Pokharel and law students Chelsea Muir, Ana Urgiles, and Veronica Stoever. “In just one of its latest attempts to fearmonger, further entrench xenophobia, and close down borders, the Trump Administration is exploiting the COVID-19 pandemic to ban migrant workers from the United States. But the United States’ international obligations do not permit such a cruel and reckless policy,” said Sharma Pokharel. “The Administration’s behavior jeopardizes workers’ ability to migrate safely, and violates their right to due process and family integrity. These international human rights protections must constrain the Administration’s actions.” 

The amicus brief supports the complaint filed by Justice Action Center (JAC) along with the American Immigration Lawyers’ Association, Innovation Law Lab, and Mayer Brown (pro bono) represent the workers, unions, employers and organizations who collectively joined in the first lawsuit challenging the entirety of Trump’s June 22, 2020 COVID immigration ban.  

The complaint alleged that the June Proclamation, which effectively eliminated most of the family- and employment-based immigrant visa categories, the diversity visa program, and the H-1B, H-2B, J, and L nonimmigrant visa programs, is unlawful and unconstitutional., enables the President to continue these entry bans thereafter as long as he deems them “necessary,” and is irrational, undermining its asserted goals of protecting U.S. workers and aiding the country’s economic recovery during and after the COVID-19 pandemic.

While certain aspects of the ban, specifically the ban on the diversity visa program, have been struck down by the courts, the provisions affecting temporary migrant workers remain in place.  

For more information about GLJ-ILRF’s work on labor migration, please see here

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Global Labor Justice – International Labor Rights Forum (GLJ – ILRF) is a newly merged organization bringing strategic capacity to cross-sectoral work on global value chains and labor migration corridors. GLJ-ILRF holds global corporations accountable for labor rights violations in their supply chains, advances policies and laws that protect decent work and just migration, and strengthens freedom of association, new forms of bargaining, and worker organizations.