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Tesco addressing migrant worker abuse at Thailand distribution centres

Caitlin Ashworth

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PHOTO: The Standard

Migrant workers at Tesco’s distribution centres in Thailand are being abused, according to an annual modern slavery statement from the UK-based company. Out of 187 migrant workers interviewed in Thailand, many had issues with unexplained and illegal wage reductions, excessive overtime hours, indebtedness through recruitment fees. Migrant workers at Tesco’s distribution centres in Malaysia had similar problems.

Last year, Tesco reported migrant workers in Thailand were found to be indebted through payment recruitment fees to labour brokers. A factory in Thailand held the passports and work permits of 13 Burmese workers. The company published its first modern slavery statement in 2017.

Tesco dug deeper into the 2020 report and hired a human rights consultancy, ‘Impactt’, to conduct an assessment, interviewing migrant workers in Thailand as well as Malaysia. The report found that workers had become undocumented because a supplier in Thailand did not do the work permit renewal processes correctly. Tesco says this left workers exposed to unauthorised fees from recruitment agents.

A Thailand supplier held 15 passports and 25-30 work permits. Tesco says that all necessary documents have now been returned.

Tesco has been working on fixing the abuse and say they have action plans for Thailand and Malaysia in place. The company says it’s providing human rights training and reviewing their recruitment principles. Tesco says “we will continue to strengthen our approach to managing the risk of modern day slavery within our business and supply chain and ensure our strategy is responsive to changing risks.”

SOURCES: Tesco 2020 Report | Tesco 2019 Report | Reuters

 

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Caitlin Ashworth is a writer from the United States who has lived in Thailand since 2018. She graduated from the University of South Florida St. Petersburg with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and media studies in 2016. She was a reporter for the Daily Hampshire Gazette In Massachusetts. She also interned at the Richmond Times-Dispatch in Virginia and Sarasota Herald-Tribune in Florida.

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