Seafood giant TU steps up worker protection

Seafood giant TU steps up worker protection

Workers process shrimp at a factory operated by Thai Union. (TU Photo)
Workers process shrimp at a factory operated by Thai Union. (TU Photo)

Thai Union Group Plc (TU), one of the world's largest seafood producers, will stop using subcontractors for shrimp pre-processing and will bring all operations in-house in order to improve worker protection.

"Fron Jan 1, 2016 onwards, all processing work will be directly controlled by Thai Union, ensuring that all workers, whether migrant or Thai, are in safe, legal employment and are treated fairly and with dignity," the company said in a news release.

"We took this decision following a full review of our supply chain and the release of our revised Business Ethics and Labour Code of Conduct in September 2015. We were concerned that, despite regular audits, it is difficult to guarantee that all external pre-processors were adhering to our Code of Conduct."

Thailand has been making major reforms in its fishery sector in response to widespread international condemnation of poor labour protection and illegal, unregulated and unreported (IUU) fishing. Revelations of human trafficking and slavery have further tarnished the image of the fishery.

The tuna business of TU, the world's largest tuna processor with brands in Europe, the United States and Thailand, has also been the target of international campaigners. Greenpeace has staged protests at TU operations in Thailand and Europe to call on the company to do more to ensure sustainable catches as well as better treatment of workers.

Thai Union said that about 1,000 workers now employed with external pre-processors such as shrimp peeling sheds would be offered jobs with the company.

"This is a positive step towards our goal of ridding the Thai seafood sector of illegal labour practices," president and CEO Thiraphong Chansiri said in the statement.

Panisuan Jamnarnwej, honorary chairman of the Thai Frozen Foods Association (TFFA), praised the TU move. "By bringing pre-processing operations in-house, Thai Union will be able to monitor and promote the welfare of their workers directly,” he said.

All Thai pre-processing operations, including those of TU, must be registered with the TFFA.

The Migrant Workers Rights Network (MWRN) said it strongly supported the TU move which, although coming late, was an acknowledgement of the risks faced by mostly powerless and at-risk Myanmar migrant workers, human rights activist Andy Hall told Undercurrent News.

"MWRN shall be working with TUG on a new project to transparently map and monitor conditions in their in-house establishments, train workers on basic rights and promote social dialogue with Thai Union management, in a new project project beginning on Jan 1 2016," he said.


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