The Thai government has failed to address widespread labor rights abuses in Thailand’s fishing fleets, Human Rights Watch said today in a letter to senior European Union officials.
Human Rights Watch urged the EU to renew efforts for serious reforms of Thai policies and practices to effectively curtail forced labor and other abusive treatment of migrant fishing workers.
“The Thai government’s reforms in the fishing industry still fall far short of resolving serious labor rights abuses,” said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “The EU should use its leverage as a major seafood importer to demand changes to improve the lives of migrant fishing workers on Thai vessels.”
Under pressure from the EU and other governments, the Thai government adopted a series of reforms to improve labor rights in the fishing industry. But since the much-publicized consultation between the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Employment and the Thai Ministry of Labour on May 16-17, 2018, in Brussels, little has improved.
Migrant workers still enter into fishing work in debt bondage, and are prevented from changing employers, not paid on time, and paid below the minimum wage, as documented in Human Rights Watch’s 2018 report, “Hidden Chains: Rights Abuses and Forced Labor in Thailand’s Fishing Industry.”
Human Rights Watch found that captains compelled predominantly Burmese and Cambodian fishing workers to work overtime hours well beyond those set out in law. Boat owners and captains violated legal requirements to pay wages at least monthly, frequently paying fishing workers once every six months – or in some cases once a year at subminimum wages. A reform requiring monthly wage payments by electronic bank transfer has been thwarted by unscrupulous captains who keep the fishing workers’ ATM cards and bank books.
Boat owners did not provide written contracts or copies, or explain the contracts to the fishing workers. Captains continued to seize migrant workers’ documents in violation of the law. Threats, intimidation, and physical violence by captains, officers, and fleet owners against fishing workers were still reported.
Thai government reforms have been neither effective nor adequate to improve complaint processes and monitoring to ensure that fishing workers are able to change employers without obstruction, Human Rights Watch said. Labor inspections at Port-in, Port-out (PIPO) checkpoints remained perfunctory and primarily consisted of a document check. Similarly, inspections at sea often failed to follow basic procedures necessary to protect workers when providing information about possible onboard abuses.
Migrant workers in Thailand’s fishing industry still do not receive sufficient legal protections, Human Rights Watch said. The Labour Relations Act of 1975 prohibits workers without Thai nationality from formally establishing a labor union or being a member of a labor union committee. Without the ability to organize a union, migrant workers have few avenues to demand their rights and become extremely vulnerable to retaliation by boat captains, fleet owners, and abusive officials.
In June, the Thai government fulfilled an important pledge by ratifying the International Labour Organization (ILO) Protocol to the Forced Labour Convention (No. 29). The government should immediately take all necessary steps to ensure that it is implemented effectively. The Thai government should also ratify ILO Conventions on Freedom of Association (No. 87) and the Right to Organize and Collective Bargaining (No. 98), Human Rights Watch said.
“Thailand needs to make genuine progress, not just paper reforms, to address labor rights abuses on Thai fishing fleets,” Adams said. “The EU should further press Thailand to protect the rights, health, and safety of migrant fishing workers. European consumers should be confident that their seafood from Thailand does not involve trafficked or forced labor.”
Published on HRW on July 15, 2018
UN Human Rights Council adopts resolution on improving accountability & access to remedy for victims of business-related human rights abuse
The OHCHR is pleased to announce a formal request by the Human Rights Council to the High Commissioner to continue work on the Accountability and Remedy Project (ARP). On 6 July, the Council adopted by consensus resolution A/HRC/38/13 entitled "Business and human rights: improving accountability and access to remedy." The resolution welcomed the work of the High Commissioner on ARP generally; noted with appreciation the recently-released ARP II report focusing on improving accountability and access to remedy through State-based non-judicial mechanisms; invited States to consider using the ARP I and II reports when seeking to enhance the ability and effectiveness of state-based judicial and non-judicial mechanisms; and encouraged relevant UN programmes and agencies, national human rights institutions, and civil society to take into consideration the ARP I and II reports.
The Council requested the High Commissioner to continue his work in this area, including with the dissemination of the findings of ARP I and II. Furthermore, the High Commissioner was requested to proceed with work on ARP III, specifically to identify and analyse challenges, opportunities, best practices and lessons learned with regard to non-state-based grievance mechanisms that are relevant for the respect by business enterprises for human rights, and to submit a report thereon to be considered by the Human Rights Council at its 44th session. Information on how the OHCHR plans to proceed with this new mandate is forthcoming and will be posted on the Business and Human Rights Resource Centre's dedicated page on ARP in due course.
Resolution A/HRC/38/13 also welcomed the efforts of the Working Group on Business and Human Rights with respect to enhancing access to effective remedies, and requested the Working Group, mindful of the guidance provided by ARP, to analyze further the role of national human rights institutions in facilitating access to remedy for business-related human rights abuses.
Published on the Business and Human Rights Resource Center on July 10, 2018
KnowTheChain Ranks 40 Global Technology Companies on Action Taken to Address Forced Labor in their Supply Chains
As technology companies bring the world together, they are failing to connect with the workers in their own supply chains to address forced labor risks, KnowTheChain found in its second information and communications technology (ICT) benchmark. Released today, the benchmark ranks the top 40 global ICT companies—with a combined market capitalization of $4.7 trillion—on how they address forced labor in their supply chains.
Intel, the leader of the benchmark, overtook both Apple and HP since 2016. Overall, major companies, including Intel, HP, Apple, and Hewlett Packard Enterprise, scored highest in the benchmark, but other important players, notably Amazon, did not perform as well. At the same time, Broadcom reduced its public disclosure dramatically, resulting in an 81% decrease in their score compared to 2016. While the majority of companies have taken steps to improve compared to 2016, the sector as a whole needs to take stronger actions to protect vulnerable workers.
Issue areas that have the most impact on workers' lives, such as worker voice and recruitment, are among the lowest scoring themes for all companies. The report urges companies to engage with workers, give them access to effective grievance mechanisms, and tackle the exploitation of migrant workers by implementing ethical recruitment practices and repaying workers for recruitment fees they may have paid.
The average benchmark score was 32 out of 100 possible points, with Intel scoring highest (75/100) and Largan Precision scoring lowest (0/100). While the top scoring companies have strong practices in place regarding their first-tier suppliers, their efforts are not being matched by some of the world's largest suppliers: six companies (Amphenol, Keyence, Microchip Technology, Corning, Broadcom, and BOE) who supply to the largest ICT companies in the benchmark scored below 10/100, thus taking limited steps to address forced labor in their own supply chains.
"This is the first time we've been able to measure companies' progress against where they were two years ago," said Kilian Moote, Project Director of KnowTheChain. "It's encouraging that companies are starting to address forced labor. But this benchmark shows that the sector needs to advance their efforts further down the supply chain in order to truly protect vulnerable workers."
"It is encouraging to see that a few leading companies are starting to take steps to ensure that workers in their supply chains are aware of their rights and have access to effective grievance mechanisms, something we have not seen in the previous benchmarks," said Felicitas Weber, Business & Human Rights Resource Centre - KnowTheChain Project Lead. "However, given the continued exploitation of workers in electronic supply chains, companies need to take much stronger action and use their means and leverage to ensure workers' voices are heard and that responsible recruitment practices are in place across their supply chains."
In addition to ranking 40 ICT global companies and providing an analysis of company policies, the benchmark provides recommendations for companies on a path forward. It also provides a valuable framework for investors to inform their decision making and active ownership practices. For this reason, KnowTheChain was recently endorsed by global investors representing more than $3 trillion in assets who also committed to taking action to eradicate forced labor in their portfolios.
The companies were selected for the benchmark based on their size (market capitalization) and the extent to which they derive revenues from physical products, where the risks of forced labor are high. KnowTheChain assessed information available on each company's website, additional public disclosure that companies provided in response to engagement questions, and forced labor allegations as well as companies' responses. Sustainalytics, a leading global provider of environmental, social and governance research and ratings supported the development of the company list and the benchmark methodology.
Published on PRNewsWire on June 18, 2018
The benchmark findings report can be found below.
Amnesty International has urged zero tolerance for companies who continue to profit from human rights abuses in cobalt mines, ahead of the 12th Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) Forum on Responsible Mineral Supply Chains, which takes place in Paris between 17-20 April.
In two major reports* Amnesty International has shown how the majority of companies sourcing cobalt from the war-torn Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) have likely contributed to or benefited from human rights abuses.
“The fact that abuses persist years after the OECD put responsible sourcing guidelines in place raises the question of whether this Forum will be anything more than a talking shop for businesses. We are calling on states and companies alike to put human rights, not profit margins, at the heart of their discussions - this should be an opportunity to make real progress towards cleaning up the cobalt supply chain,” said Seema Joshi, Head of Business and Human Rights at Amnesty International.
“In particular, companies need to take concrete steps towards addressing the suffering of victims and providing effective reparations. Former child labourers in the DRC don’t magically start thriving at school when companies cut their ties with exploitative mines. Even if a company has stopped sourcing from high risk areas, it still has a responsibility to help people who have suffered past human rights abuses linked to its business to rebuild their lives.”
Ending human rights abuses in the diamond industry will also be a key part of the OECD agenda. Amnesty International and others have criticized the Kimberley Process, a 2003 diamond certification scheme established by the UN, for having too narrow a focus and letting companies off the hook.
Published on April 17, 2018
KnowTheChain is a resource for businesses and investors who need to understand and address forced labor risks within their supply chains.
In 2016, KnowTheChain has ranked 60 of the largest global companies in three high risks sectors on their efforts to address forced labor and human trafficking risks in their supply chains. Each sector benchmark includes individual company scorecards, a findings report and resource and action guide for the sector:
In 2017, KnowTheChain undertook an analysis across the three sectors, reviewed its benchmark methodology, and evaluated to what extent companies address forced labor risks specifically in sugarcane and leather supply chains.
In 2018 KnowTheChain will benchmark 125 companies across the three sectors.
For more information, contact Felicitas Weber at email@example.com.
Published on the Business & HR Resource Centre.
A team of UN experts today presented their preliminary observations on steps that should be taken by the Royal Thai Government and businesses to improve corporate respect for human rights and to strengthen access to effective remedies.
“We welcome the clear ambition of the Government to become a regional leader on business and human rights and encourage it to take decisive steps towards this objective,” said Dante Pesce, vice-chairperson of the Working Group on business and human rights, at the end of a 10-day visit to the country. (Full mission statement in English and Thai.)
The experts noted how reports on trafficking and forced labour in the fishing industry had been a wake-up call for the Government, which had resulted in a concerted effort to stamp out abusive business practices. They called on the Government to take similar action in other sectors such as agriculture, energy, manufacturing and construction.
“The Government and businesses should improve policies and mechanisms to identify, mitigate and remedy human rights risks, in line with the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, including for mega projects promoted by Thai companies and investments in other countries in the region,” said Surya Deva, the other member of the Working Group’s visiting delegation.
During the visit, the experts consulted with government authorities, the business sector and a wide range of civil society actors, including representatives of groups who are particularly at risk of business-related human rights abuse, such as migrant workers, human rights defenders, community activists, persons with disabilities and sex workers.
“One critical challenge for Thailand will be to end recurring attacks, harassment and intimidation of human rights defenders, union leaders and community representatives who speak out against business-related human rights abuse,” the experts said.
“More must be done to protect civic space, including protecting human rights defenders against civil and criminal defamation law suits filed by companies to silence those who stand up for the victims of abuse,” they added.
The experts welcomed the openness of the Government to discuss remaining challenges and to see how these could be tackled and addressed in a National Action Plan on Business and Human Rights to be completed later this year.
“We have urged the Government to develop this plan through an inclusive and transparent process that includes all interested parties, including – and in particular – the critical voices, and we are hopeful that the Government will be able to deliver on its commitments,” the experts said.
The Working Group’s final report, including findings and key recommendations, will be presented to the UN Human Rights Council in June 2019.
Published on OHCHR on April 4, 2018
By Simon Harvey
Ferrero has revealed the sources of its palm oil amid an initiative by Greenpeace International to clamp down on deforestation by producers of the commodity before the end of the decade.
The Italy-based confectionery maker issued an extensive list of 116 oil palm mills, which includes suppliers in Malaysia, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, Brazil and Colombia. Ferrero said it will update the list every six months and provide updates on its sustainability progress.
Environmental pressure group Greenpeace is committed to eradicating deforestation caused by palm oil plantations and its impact on climate change by 2020 and is encouraging companies to disclose their sources.
The non-governmental organisation said decades of deforestation by the commodity producers has not only set the conditions for forest and peat-land fires but also endangered the health of people across south-east Asia, exploited workers and encouraged child labour.
Earlier in March, Greenpeace issued its 'Moment of Truth' report highlighting companies' ''readiness to come clean about where their palm oil comes from and finds that brands are not on track to meet their commitments to a clean palm oil supply chain by 2020.
In a 19 March statement, the NGO said: "We called on them to disclose publicly the mills that produced their palm oil and the names of the producer groups that controlled those mills. If disclosed, this information would show whether brands had forest destroyers in their supply chains."
However, Ferrero published its list ahead of its scheduled announcement on 15 May.
''Ferrero fully welcomes Greenpeace's request for further supply chain transparency and agrees that this is an essential component of sustainable sourcing and supply chain responsibility," the company said in a statement.
''Ferrero recognises the important industry momentum generated by Greenpeace through its report 'Moment of Truth' and feels strongly about demonstrating its absolute dedication to transparency."
Chief operating officer Aldo Uva added: "Transparency is a first key step towards industry transformation and we believe that a holistic approach with on-the-ground actions are necessary to create [a] long-term positive impact on the palm oil sector and we are committed to it."
Published on JustFood on March 26, 2018
By VALERIE BAH
On a research trip to the Kamituga gold mine in her home province of South Kivu, in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), activist Marie-Rose Shakalili noticed something that’s often minimised in stories about mining in her country: that “women work disproportionately hard, breaking up stones, transporting and sifting them, grinding them into powder.”
Shakalili described a “brutality of gendered roles in mining operations” in the DRC, with women finding that their labour is undervalued at each step. “For a basin of crushed rocks, a woman might earn the equivalent of $3 a day, but since it’s backbreaking work, they often feel the need to bring [their] children… to assist them,” she added.
“Women who are active in the mining sector lead very difficult lives,” Shakalili continued. After finding an almost total lack of research and statistics on their conditions, she travelled to Kamituga to speak directly with women working in some of the region's many artisanal and small-scale mine sites – where people mine informally using rudimentary tools and sell (mostly) unprocessed products to traders and companies.
A 2016 report from the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF), released just a few months before Shakalili’s research, is one of the few other studies of women’s experiences in the DRC’s informal mining sector.
Based on a survey conducted in Katanga province, it described alarming trends including labour and sexual exploitation on mining sites and security forces (state and private) appearing to protect corporate interests to the detriment of local populations.
At one artisanal mining site known as “Huit Cent,” for example, the report said that armed security forces have exacted “taxes” from workers and prevented them from organising.
The DRC mining industry is a prime example of how unbalanced corporate power threatens the rights of women, whose voices and experiences are too often marginalised or ignored altogether. Cases like these are why feminist activists have joined the international mobilisation for a new binding treaty to regulate the impacts of transnational corporations.
Artisanal miners produce 90% of the mining sector’s revenues in the DRC, according to the World Bank. They constitute between 500,000 and 2 million informal workers at the bottom of supply chains. They perform the hard manual labour that feeds into the industrial operations of international mining corporations, which process and sell the mined products abroad.
International mining corporations may have vast economic resources, political influence, legal armour, and media connections to shape public narratives about their activities. Members of local, often rural, communities may not benefit sufficiently from their operations and, with far fewer resources, often struggle to access justice when they suffer harm.
They may not be able to afford lawyers, for example, or they may be unable to travel long distances to courts, or even understand such proceedings and relevant documents, if they speak a local dialect or indigenous language.
The underrepresentation of women in local government exacerbates the ways in which their voices are sidelined, Shakalili adds.
“The mining sector is overstacked in favour of men,” said Shakalili, who told me about meetings that she observed, as part of her research, between mining company representatives and government officials where she found women and their concerns were routinely absent.
The Association for Women’s Rights in Development (AWID), where I work, is part of the Treaty Alliance coalition which believes that new international laws are needed to regulate the impacts of transnational corporations. Our existing legal tools are not sufficient.
In 2002, a new Mining Code was introduced in the DRC to regulate this sector. But it was drafted under advice from the IMF and World Bank which have, according to the civil society watchdog Gender Action, privileged the growth of the mining sector while disregarding its gender impacts.
According to a 2015 briefing from NGO Global Witness, existing frameworks like the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, and the OECD’s Due Diligence Guidance, have done little to ensure that companies operating in the DRC source conflict-free minerals, pay their fair share of taxes, or protect workers at the “bottom” of supply chains.
Though the Global Witness briefing does not discuss the demographics of artisanal miners, feminist research like that from WILPF highlights the specific vulnerability faced by women in the industry, who face gendered “violations of all kinds” – including barriers to job promotion beyond hard labour; lower pay than men; and sexual violence at work.
The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) has warned that conflict-affected areas are a “‘grey zone’ in terms of business and human rights” despite “heightened risks for gross human rights violations, of which companies may be perpetrators or accomplices.”
International humanitarian and human rights laws have fallen short of being able to “efficiently prevent, address, mitigate or account for business-related human rights abuses in conflict-affected areas,” hence the need for new laws.
Discussions on a proposed Binding Treaty on Transnational Corporations have been underway at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva since 2014. Negotiations over a draft treaty text are now expected to begin later this year.
Organisations including FIDH see this proposed treaty and the negotiations process as an opportunity to clarify human rights obligations for states and companies, including where businesses may play a role in “exacerbating or driving” conflicts.
At AWID, my colleague Inna Michaeli explains: "War and conflict are not just profitable for the widest range of industries, they can in fact be caused and driven by economic and corporate interests.”
Michaeli has been working with other activists to lend a feminist perspective and raise awareness on the possibilities that a binding treaty offers women human rights defenders.
Industries from mining to construction to banking and telecommunications “can all profit from conflicts and thus maintain a political interest in their continuation,” she said. “Given the vast economic and political power corporations hold today, this really is about human lives."
In the DRC, Shakalili is also thinking about local structures that could help to minimise harm on mining sites. “To facilitate the survival of women,” she said, “we are talking about cooperatives so that women, and the children that they support, are represented in terms of earning and ownership [in the sector].”
Shakalili is one of 48 women human rights defenders who spoke about extractive industries impacts on their communities, and women in particular, in a 2017 report published by AWID and the Women Human Rights Defenders International Coalition (WHRDIC).
This report highlights a chilling statistic from a UN special rapporteur: out of 156 killings of women human rights defenders in 2015, 45% were of environmental, land and indigenous rights activists. Mining was one of the most lethal sectors, along with hydroelectric projects, agribusiness, and logging activities.
Many of the women cited in this report also criticised extractive models of development, demanding sustainable alternatives that would respect ecosystems, minimise economic disparities, and enable communities to thrive.
Published on Open Democracy on March 22, 2018
A Primark spokesperson said: “We can confirm we have published information about the factories which manufacture products for Primark on our website.
“For a number of years, we’ve been working closely with industry partners sharing information about where Primark products are made. This has included for example, details of our suppliers, their factories, as well as our supply chain practices. Partners have extended from bodies such as the Ethical Trading Initiative, to organisations monitoring industry standards, notably the International Labour Organisation’s Better Work programme.
“Information about suppliers’ factories in the 31 countries from which Primark sources product is now available on our website. Details include factory names, addresses, number of workers and gender split of the workforce.
“A factory is detailed on the map only after it has produced products for Primark for a year and has become an established supplier. During the first year, a factory has to demonstrate that it can consistently work to Primark’s ethical standards, as well as meet our commercial requirements in areas such as quality and timely delivery. Factories featured on the map produce over 95% of Primark’s products for sale in our stores.
“Primark has not published details of its suppliers’ factories up to now, as we regarded this information as giving us commercial advantage. However, with 98% of the factories making products for Primark also manufacturing for other brands, and with a number of those retailers now publishing details of their sourcing, we have taken the decision to share our information.
“Primark does not own any factories and requires all its suppliers’ factories to meet its Code of Conduct, which is based on the standards of the International Labour Organisation, a United Nations body. Primark’s Ethical Trade and Environmental Sustainability Team, which consists of over 100 people based in key sourcing countries, is responsible for monitoring compliance with its Code. This team will also be responsible for providing updates to the Primark Global Sourcing Map on a twice-yearly basis.”
Published on Primark on February 7, 2018
Jewelry is meant to be a symbol of beauty, love, and commitment. Every year, consumers purchase nearly US$300 billion of jewelry for themselves or for loved ones. But increasingly, promoting the story of beauty, love, and commitment is not enough – customers want to be sure that the precious minerals and gems in their jewelry have been sourced responsibly.
The conditions under which gold and diamonds are mined can be brutal. Miners – including children – are injured and killed in unsafe gold or diamond mining pits. Indigenous peoples and other local residents living near large-scale mines are forcibly displaced. In conflict zones, civilians suffer enormously as abusive armed groups and criminal networks enrich themselves by exploiting gold and diamonds. Mines are polluting waterways and soil with toxic chemicals, harming the health and livelihoods of whole communities.
Jewelry companies are not doing enough to ensure they are sourcing responsibly, and many fail to publicly and transparently report on the due diligence efforts they say they undertake. Companies often rely on the Responsible Jewellery Council, which brings together over 1,000 companies in the jewelry supply chain. But the Responsible Jewellery Council promotes standards that allow companies to be certified even when they fail to support basic human rights. The Kimberley Process, another scheme often used by companies, is focused too narrowly on diamonds linked to rebel forces, applies only to rough diamonds, and places no responsibility on companies. Governments rarely require industry actors to undertake robust human rights due diligence. The United States and the European Union have adopted laws on the responsible sourcing of gold (as well as tin, tungsten, and tantalum), but more countries need to follow their lead, and laws should apply to a wider range of minerals.
Jewelry companies can meet the demand for ethically sourced jewelry by putting responsibility and transparency at the heart of their business – and a few have already begun to do so. Under existing voluntary standards, established by the United Nations and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, companies are expected to put in place a “due diligence” process to identify human rights risks, address these risks, and account for their efforts to the public and to independent auditors.
We, the undersigned NGOs and trade unions, are calling upon the jewelry industry to turn its commitment to responsible sourcing into effective action.
Jewelry Companies Should:
Published on HRW on February 8, 2018