Chicken processing firms pledge to examine ‘unfair’ recruiting fees

Chicken processing firms pledge to examine ‘unfair’ recruiting fees

Owners of chicken processing companies have promised to look into allegations of unfair recruitment fees imposed on immigrant workers and to improve communications with them and to cut out alleged labour abuses.

The fee issue and claims that workers’ passports and important work documents were being held by their employers or by brokers were among some of the findings made public recently by Swedwatch and Finnwatch, which conducted a joint study into the working conditions of Cambodian and Myanmar workers in the Thai chicken industry.

The companies named, along with the Thai Broiler Processing Exporters Association, insist they have complied with the law and have taken on board their customers’ concerns about labour rights.

However, the association and six major chicken processing firms admitted they may have “not adequately” acted on some issues and “promised to make things better”, said Natthasak Phatthanakunchai, an adviser to Saha Farms Co, after talking with senior officials at the Labour Ministry on Friday.

Among the allegations his company is facing is a claim that it confiscated workers’ passports and other important documents.

This may have resulted from misunderstandings between workers and their Thai supervisors, association manager Kukrit Arepagorn said.

The word “confiscated” should not be used because in fact the workers’ passports are “kept” for processes related to reporting to the Immigration Bureau every 90 days, he said, adding that the company was trying to help the workers with the time-consuming paperwork.

All of the companies agreed to improve their communications with the workers so they can better deal with their doubts and needs.

Industry representatives also said they will inspect the alleged extortion involving recruitment fees collected by Thai and foreign agencies.

Mr Natthasak said employers “don’t know how much the workers have to pay”, but agreed they would work to prevent them being exploited.

“If agencies take too much advantage [of workers], those agencies cannot exist as others with cheaper service fees will enter the business,” he said.

Permanent secretary for labour ML Puntrik Smiti also clarified a claim that immigrant workers cannot receive medical treatment under the social security welfare scheme.

Calling the problem another misunderstanding, ML Puntrik said the workers would be granted medical benefits after they had paid government contributions for 90 days.

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