The global Covid-19 pandemic continues to grow and spread. Half of the world’s population is under some form of lock-down or movement restriction in order to control the spread of the novel coronavirus. Garment workers in global supply chains, who already grapple with poverty wages and precarious living situations, face increasing insecurity as factories close in response to steep drops in orders and as governments shut down manufacturing to protect public health.
With a new report released today, the International Labor Rights Forum (ILRF) is calling on the Thai government, seafood companies, and global buyers to guarantee the right to freedom of association and collective bargaining for migrant workers in order to end pervasive forced labor in the Thai seafood industry.
The new coronavirus has reached global pandemic levels and is affecting people across the world, including garment workers in global supply chains. Protecting those most at risk means both taking steps to limit exposure and ensuring that people surviving on the poverty line are not pushed below it. Due to their low wages and widespread repression of freedom of association rights, garment workers already live in precarious situations and the economic fallout of the pandemic is having far-reaching consequences.
The Seafood Working Group recommends that the U.S. State Department downgrade Thailand to Tier 2 Watch List in its forthcoming Trafficking in Persons Report 2020. The International Labor Rights Forum facilitates the Seafood Working Group, an internationally recognized coalition of over 60 human rights, labor, and environmental organizations that work together to advocate for effective government policies and industry actions to end worker exploitation in the seafood sector.
The U.S. has one of the most powerful tools for preventing the import of goods made by forced labor: the Tariff Act. Yet, Section 307 of the Tariff Act is rarely enforced. In its new report released today – “Combatting Forced Labor and Enforcing Workers’ Rights Using the Tariff Act” – the International Labor Rights Forum explains why and offers recommendations for improvement.
A fire in the two-story Nandan Denim factory in the Indian city of Ahmedabad a week ago on Saturday night killed at least seven workers. According to media reports, the high death toll was caused by severe safety defects in the factory. This fire thereby painfully shows the need for concerted preventive safety measures throughout India’s garment industry.
New evidence of forced labor against Procter & Gamble’s joint venture partner, Malaysian company FGV
This week, the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) announced it is suspending certification bids for the non-certified units of FGV Holdings Berhad (FGV) — one of Malaysia’s largest palm oil companies and a joint venture partner of Procter & Gamble — as well as re-imposing the RSPO’s suspension of FGV’s mill unit Kilang Sawit Serting.
A year ago, tens of thousands of workers in Bangladesh went on strike against the poverty wages that are pervasive in the country’s export-oriented garment industry. On January 13, 2019, a minimal wage revision was announced that, together with massive repression, led workers to end the demonstrations that had been going on since December. Thousands of workers were unable to go back to work, however, facing punishment for their peaceful protest through politically-motivated dismissals, blacklisting, and criminal charges.
Laws Needed to Ensure Companies Adopt Human Rights Practices
Clothing and footwear brands and retailers have dramatically increased their disclosure of information about their supply chains in the past three years, a coalition of unions, human rights groups, and labor rights advocates said in a joint report released today.
In the wake of the U.S. government suspending billions of dollars in trade preferences for Thailand due to worker rights issues, organizations participating in the Seafood Working Group released a statement on Human Rights Day strongly urging the Thai government to undertake the necessary reforms to have the trade benefits reinstated. The 24 organizations also urged global companies buying seafood from Thailand to ensure that workers’ rights are fully protected in their supply chains.
First Move Toward Adopting ‘Transparency Pledge,’ Supply Chain Justice
Amazon took a useful first step toward transparency on November 15, 2019 by publicly disclosing on its website the names, addresses, and other details of over 1,000 facilities that produce Amazon-branded products, a broad coalition of human rights groups, labor rights organizations, and global unions said today.
Cotton Campaign and Uzbek Government Deepen Dialogue, Urgent Work Remains
The Cotton Campaign met with the government of Uzbekistan in Washington last week to discuss reform efforts to end forced labor in Uzbekistan’s cotton harvest, which is currently underway. The Uzbek delegation, headed by Minister of Investments and Foreign Trade Sardor Umurzakov, presented its Roadmap to combat forced labor, which seeks to address the key concerns raised by the Cotton Campaign in its dialogue with the government.
The Cotton Campaign calls on the Uzbek government to drop criminal charges against Mahmud Rajab, a poet, journalist, and human rights defender, whose trial on contraband charges is set to begin Thursday. The government should also stop interfering with independent reporting on human rights issues, including forced labor.
Seven years since the Ali Enterprises factory fire of 2012, in which over 250 workers were killed, textile and garment factories in Pakistan remain as unsafe as they were then, warns a report launched today. Initiatives established in the past years have failed to put workers and the unions that represent them in the centre of their programs and therefore will fail to meaningfully address the industry’s safety issues.
Sentenced in retaliation for reporting on forced labor in cotton fields
Gaspar Matalaev, a labor rights monitor from Turkmenistan, was released from prison on September 6 after three years’ imprisonment in retaliation for his reporting on forced labor, the Cotton Campaign said today. A court in Turkmenabat sentenced Matalaev on spurious charges of fraud in 2016 and Matalaev served the entire three-year sentence.
A building safety initiative launching in India today, aimed at improving safety for workers in the country’s garment industry, is set on a path to ignore workers’ voices and replicate mistakes from the past. Although the “Life and Building Safety Initiative” professes to learn from the program that made factories safe in Bangladesh after the Rana Plaza building collapse, it ignores its most vital elements.
Procter & Gamble major importer of “illicit” palm oil products produced by Malaysia’s FGV
Today a coalition of labor, environmental, and social justice NGOs filed a formal complaint with U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), seeking to stop the importation of palm oil products produced by FGV Holdings Berhad (FGV), one of Malaysia’s largest palm oil companies and a joint venture partner of Procter & Gamble.
The International Labor Rights Forum celebrates the International Labour Organization’s adoption of both a Convention and a Recommendation on Violence and Harassment in the World of Work. The historic treaty passed today at the ILO’s centennial assembly in a 439-7 vote, with 30 abstentions.
Uzbekistan Stays at Tier 2 – Still Work to do to End Forced Labor
For the fourth year in a row, the Government of Turkmenistan failed to meet the minimum standards to address human trafficking outlined in the 2019 US Trafficking in Persons (TIP) report, resulting in a Tier 3 ranking – the lowest possible ranking.