The advice to foreign buyers comes from UK lawyer and human rights activist Andy Hall, who lives in Thailand and represents the local NGO Migrant Worker Rights Network (MWRN).
In a report released in November 2015, Swedwatch revealed appalling labor conditions for migrant workers at Thai chicken factories. The report gained a lot of attention in Thailand and the neighboring countries. In August 2016 the government rolled out an education programme for the industry (Good Labour Practice Program). At the same time new claims are reported. 14 migrant workers from Myanmar employed by a farm in Thailand’s Lopburi Province, have come forward with allegations that they have been subject to slave-like conditions and have worked up to 11 hours of unpaid overtime - per day.
Andy Hall talks to Swedwatch about the current situation and about how foreign buyers could take action for a change.
What does the newly presented Good Labour Practice programme for the Thai poultry industry mean?
It remains to be seen. The program was set up by the Thai government and local industry with little or no transparency or consultation with stakeholders like MWRN, so it is difficult to say what impact it could potentially have. A resembling program set up in the fish industry was a disappointment, it was too theoretical and many companies did not comply.
Do you see any other signs of progress in Thai corporate responsibility for migrant workers in the poultry industry?
The issue gets much more attention today and companies like CP Foods advertise that they have put in place certificated labor standard, etc. But we still get a lot of complaints of abuses on farms and there is no transparency or possibility for workers’ associations to inspect the farms to verify actual changes on the ground.
What’s your comment on how Scandinavian/international stakeholders related to trade with Thai poultry have engaged and reacted on the situation for migrant workers in Thai poultry?
We/MWRN have heard (via Swedwatch, Finnwatch and others) that there has been some pressure on the government and the suppliers from Nordic buyers. However, in the current case of the 14 migrants from Myanmar claiming their rights to compensation for unpaid overtime and slave like conditions, there has been no support from foreign buyers - so far.
What further actions are needed from Scandinavian/international stakeholders to improve the conditions for migrant workers in Thai poultry industry?
Buyers need to reinforce pressure on the government and farms by demanding 3rd part audits that can verify claims of improvements. Also, they should put pressure on factories to give compensation in the current Myanmar case, and make sure it will not happen again. Also, Nordic buyers need to spread best practices on a European level via BSCI. Big buyers from countries like Germany and UK need to put pressure for an actual change to happen.