Thai Union takes steps to end slavery in its supply chain

Published on
June 22, 2016

In the past week, Thai Union published a Modern Slavery Act Transparency Statement and hosted a meeting with leaders of the Migrant Worker Rights Network, as part of the company’s efforts to address slavery and human rights abuses in its supply chain.

The statement, published in support of the United Kingdom’s Modern Slavery Act of 2015, outlines the activities undertaken by the company to eliminate slavery and human trafficking from its business operations.

According to the report, Thai Union has terminated relationships with 17 suppliers as a result of forced labor or human trafficking violations since the start of 2015. The company also revealed that in 2015, “two serious issues of forced labor were uncovered within the Thai Union supply chain.”

“Thai Union worked with local NGOs, the Issara Institute and Migrant Workers Rights Network to provide humanitarian aid to workers, full compensation of lost benefits, and offers for safe and legal employment within Thai Union factories,” the report said. “Thai Union is committed to demonstrating full transparency and traceability in our supply chain. All supply chains are in the process of being mapped to source, and audited for compliance with quality and labor standards.”

Other details mentioned in the report include:

• In 2015, Thai Union identified external preprocessors as being at very high risk of illegal or forced labor within its supply chain in Thailand. In January 2016, the company ceased all work with external preprocessors, bringing more than 1,200 workers within its own factories and “ensuring that they were safely and legally employed.”
• Thai Union ceased working with all third-party employment brokers in Thailand. These processes are now completed by a Thai Union company with zero fees for workers, it said.
• The company now has 100 percent traceability for all its tuna brands and is developing a full digital chain of custody from hatch to catch to consumption, with a public facing can-tracker for all of its major tuna brands.
• The company has conducted labor risk assessments of the shrimp supply chain, and non- seafood supply chains in Thailand.
• Thai Union is working with the Issara Institute to provide an independent, 24-hour multilingual third-party helpline to workers in all of its factories and ports, and is developing a social media app to increase its outreach to workers.
• Thai Union is working with the Shrimp Sustainable Supply Chain Task Force in Thailand to map and audit its Thai seafood and shrimp supply chains.

“Thai Union is committed to fighting human trafficking and human rights violations, whether found in our own operations or in our supply chain,” Thai Union’s global director for sustainable development, Darian McBain, said in a statement. “As a global company, our supply chains can be complex, but we are working to combat potential risks through careful supply chain management, audits and capacity building with our suppliers.”

As an additional part of its outreach, Thai Union Director-General of the Department of Employment Aruk Phrommanee met with company employees and leaders of the Migrant Worker Rights Network (MWRN) at Thai Union’s production facility in Samut Sakhon, Thailand on 16 June.

The meeting covered the company’s new zero recruitment fees policy and provided an overview of the company’s pre-departure training program held in Yangon, Myanmar for newly recruited Myanmar workers. It also reviewed the recent election of Thai Union's 19-member welfare committee.

“Open and frank discussions are important to facilitating wide-reaching change. We believe that the industry will improve through active collaboration among different stakeholders,” Thai Union’s group head of human resources Shue Chung Chan said.

MWRN International Affairs Advisor Andy Hall praised Thai Union work in improving its migrant worker recruitment policies and workplace social dialogue.

“Thai Union's continued process improvements and actions, alongside stakeholders who are most important to bringing change, are a strong example for the entire industry to take note of and implement across the board,” he said.

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