February 14, 2014
International Transport Workers’ Federation and International Union of Food, Agricultural, Hotel, Catering, Tobacco and Allied Workers’ Associations today welcomed the release of research by Finnish group Finnwatch into the human cost of that nation’s cheap supermarket food. The report, available here, follows up an earlier report Cheap has a high price, which traced back the supply chain of two common supermarket own brand food products: pineapple juice and tuna fish processed and tinned in Thailand.
Cheap has a high price revealed serious violations of basic human and labour rights in Thai factories involved in the production of major Finnish and European retail chains’ products. It included testimonies from workers describing the use of forced and child labour, unlawfully low wages, excessive overtime, abuse by managers and unsafe working conditions. The follow up report from Finnwatch – an independent NGO focusing on global corporate responsibility – looks at what retailers and factories have done to address the serious issues raised.
Liz Blackshaw is programme leader for the joint ITF/IUF From catcher to counter initiative, which works with fishers to build worker representation and improve conditions across the fishing industry. She commented: “Fishing and fish processing are two of the most unregulated industries in the world. In some places the business model is predicated on modern slavery, appalling conditions and the criminal maltreatment of workers. Typically, a blind eye is turned to this by the authorities, and there are no independent trade unions to protect workers’ rights.”
She continued: “We are helping to build unions that can safeguard these exploited workers, and we applaud the light being shone by agencies such as Finnwatch onto the appalling abuses they are having to endure. We regularly work with organisations such as the IMO (International Maritime Organization), ILO (International Labour Organization) and Interpol, and alongside them we welcome the valuable contributions being made by NGOs that are carrying out much needed investigations into issues such as exploitation, illegal fishing and human trafficking.”