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Companies Take Action to Protect Migrant Workers

Over 150 million workers globally have left their home countries in search of employment opportunities, according to the ILO (2013). Escaping poverty, job scarcity, and wage disparity, these workers often fall victims to the largely unregulated recruitment industry. They live in fear of being deported and often without access to grievance mechanisms.

A recent report by the Interfaith Center for Corporate Responsibility and Social Accountability International captures best practices that companies have deployed to prevent the violation of these vulnerable workers’ rights.

“Many global brands, including HP, Patagonia, and Princes Tuna have taken action to fight the widespread human rights violations against migrant workers. We are pleased to see companies taking a proactive approach to tackle the complex problem,” says SAI’s Director of Corporate Programs Christie Daly.

Princes Tuna Pays for Additional Recruitment Costs

The SA8000-certified Princes Tuna Mauritius, a manufacturer of canned tuna products headquartered in the United Kingdom, recruits over one third of its 4,300 employees overseas. In Bangladesh, it collaborates with a trusted recruitment agency that shortlists the job applicants for the company. Princes Tuna then sends its own representative to Bangladesh to conduct the interviews and to make the final hiring decision.

“Princes Tuna has a dialogue with each worker before the employment contract is signed. The workers are encouraged to carefully review the contract with a translator and engage one-on-one with company representatives prior to departure,” explains Ramona Moorhead, SAI Manager of Corporate Programs.

Historically, Princes Tuna paid the recruitment agency fees and covered the workers’ travel and medical costs. When it recently found out that the recruitment agencies also charged a fee directly to the workers, it stepped in to claim those additional costs too. While the additional financial cost to the company was significant, Princes Tuna prioritized the wellbeing of their workers and the company’s compliance with the SA8000 Standard.

Increased Awareness Is the First Step

In recent years, nongovernmental organizations, governments, and the media have all helped generate increased attention around the previously deeply hidden issues of forced labor and human trafficking.

“In the past two years SAI has seen a significant increase in the need to focus on building the capacity of licensees and vendors further down the supply chain. Communication and awareness of ethical recruitment is the first step towards effective implementation, and SAI looks forward to our continued collaboration with the ICCR and other stakeholders to really influence change,” Moorhead concludes.

To read the full case study of Princes Tuna and other companies, click here for the report.

7 August 2017

Photo by ILO.