Providing safe, legal and freely-chosen employment in our own facilities and in supply chains is critically important to Thai Union.
While we have significant programs in place for our own employees, we are also partnering with specialist organizations and NGOs to ensure that those working in the wider industry are protected.
Globally, none of the fish is caught using Thai Union vessels but we are using our market position to improve labor conditions throughout the seafood supply chain. We know that full traceability of all our seafood products, from catch to consumption, will help accurately identify gaps in safe and legal labor and, critically, give workers a voice.
We are committed to this work and to helping the industry deliver against the United Nations’ goal to provide decent work and economic growth for communities and individuals throughout the world.
To learn more, click here to download our 2018 Safe and Legal Labor Update.
Safe and Legal
We will treat all workers, whether migrant or local employees, fairly and with dignity. They will have safe and freely-chosen employment.
Our supply chains, from vessel to factory, will comply with labor regulations and our Business Ethics and Labor Code of Conduct.
With full traceability of all the seafood we purchase, we will have information about the labor practices on board vessels.
Through education and open dialog, we will empower our workers, giving them a voice today and into the future.
We are committed to leading an ongoing and active dialog with industry, government and civil society to ensure lasting improvements in labor practices across the entire industry.
Our Key Initiatives to Achieve
Safe & Legal Labor
Enabling workers to report issues
All our workers, including migrant workers, have access to independent hotlines run by local NGOs. Employees can anonymously and confidentially report grievances, which are relayed to Thai Union management for investigation and corrective action. We promote helplines operated by the Thai Ministry of Labor and National Human Rights Commission of Thailand. Also, we will select a third-party service provider to offer accessible grievance and whistleblowing channels for employees and the general public, serving our global workforce and whistleblowers, and complementing existing internal grievance mechanisms.
Full digital traceability
Traceability is the backbone of seafood sustainability.
With full digital traceability we will trace each of our products back to its source – from the vessel that caught it or the pond that produced it. This information will allow us to monitor the labor conditions onboard vessels and from ponds we purchase from.
Fishing for the future
Technology is increasingly important to achieve sustainability. In 2017, Thai Union launched an innovative pilot project in Thailand to boost digital traceability and human rights. We are also trialing blockchain technology to input key data elements relating to catch and production from the farm to the processor. The information is secure, visible to all participating parties, and aids transparency and traceability, enhancing confidence. Additionally, Ethereum-based cryptocurrency, Fishcoin, is used to incentivize accurate reporting. Workers can be properly rewarded for correct practices, and accountable for issues. Fishcoin is tokenized data, providing both the mechanism and the reward for record-keeping.
Migrant rights education
When workers don’t know their rights, it is easy for unscrupulous operators to take advantage of them. We work with the Migrant Workers Rights Network and Labor Rights Promotion Network to train migrant workers in Thailand so they are aware of their human and labor rights.
Social dialog initiative
We have set up worker-elected welfare committees in our factories in Thailand to establish open and shared dialog between the workforce and Thai Union management, in collaboration with Migrant Worker Rights Network (MWRN). Through this process, workers are able to raise concerns immediately and to ensure that our future policies are sensitive to the specific needs of migrant and non-migrant workers alike. We are committed to giving our workers a voice and have a policy of freedom of association in all of our operations throughout the world.
Freeing the shrimp feed supply chain from illegal and forced labor
We will continue to work with the Seafood Task Force (previously called the Shrimp Sustainable Supply Chain Task Force) to ensure that the Thai seafood supply chain is free from abuses of human and labor rights. The Task Force is an international, industry alliance which aims to eradicate illegal and forced labor and illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing, through accountability, verification and transparency.
Labor standards in the crab supply chain
We will continue to work with the National Fisheries Institute (NFI) Crab Council’s Task Force to address potential labor issues as well as broader sustainability issues in crab supply chains across Asia.
Auditing our own facilities
Thai Union’s facilities are subject to the highest labor standards. In 2016, we worked with Migrant Workers Rights Network to conduct social dialog-based audit of our five key facilities to identify labor issues and to implement remediation action plans. Our facilities are audited to a range of international social standards, including the Business Social Compliance Initiative (BSCI), the Ethical Trading Initiative (ETI) base code, and the Sedex Members Ethical Trade Audit (SMETA) as well as strict retailer codes.
Thai Union’s Business Ethics and Labor Code of Conduct
In 2015, we tightened up and relaunched our Business Ethics and Labor Code of Conduct which stipulates, among other things, that workers must be legal and safe. We insist that all of our contracted suppliers – from boat operators to label printers – sign up to this code and adhere to its principles at all times to prevent illegal labor and offer training to support supplier development.
Auditable Labor Code
While Thai Union’s own Business Ethics and Labor Code of Conduct will ensure our suppliers comply with our strict principles, we want to drive change across the wider seafood industry. In 2017, we introduced our Fishing Vessel Improvement Program and Vessel Code of Conduct (VCoC), reflecting the unique set of working conditions on fishing vessels that necessitate special consideration. The Vessel Code of Conduct is an extension of the Thai Union Business Labor and Ethics Code of Conduct. Thai Union’s existing and new suppliers are required to sign the Vessel Code of Conduct in order to conduct business with the company, ensuring the VCoC is applicable to all fishing vessels in the company’s supply chain.
Ethical migrant worker recruitment policy
Thai Union has eliminated recruitment fees for all workers in our factories and processing plants, effective for all future recruitment of workers both from within Thailand and overseas. The elimination of recruitment fees follows Thai Union’s continued development of an ethical migrant worker recruitment policy.
Bali Process Business and Government Forum
Since 2017, Thai Union has participated in the Bali Process Government and Business Forum, which allows governments to better engage the private sector to combat human trafficking, forced labor and related exploitation. Thai Union issued in 2018 a statement of support for the Bali Process Acknowledge, Act and Advance (AAA) Recommendations, specifically Pillar Two to call upon governments to strengthen, implement and enforce policies and legislation to encourage ethical recruitment practices, improve transparency across supply chains, and provide support and redress mechanisms for victims.
Zero recruitment fees payable by workers
We are working to eliminate the risk of unscrupulous recruitment agents charging fees to people looking for work in our factories and processing plants in our operations globally. This protects local and migrant workers from the risk of extortion by unlicensed labor agents and brokers. Thai Union has already implemented this in Thailand and has found that in addition to providing protection to workers, it is helping us map out our recruitment processes more effectively.
Our Progress Towards Achieving
Safe & Legal Labor
Thai Union progresses on Greenpeace agreement
Thai Union has made substantial, positive progress in 2018 on its commitment as outlined in the company’s landmark agreement with Greenpeace.
Thai Union has made substantial, positive progress in 2018 on its commitment to implement measures that tackle illegal fishing and overfishing, as well as improve the livelihoods of hundreds of thousands of workers throughout its supply chains, as outlined in the company’s landmark agreement with Greenpeace.
The agreement between Thai Union and Greenpeace was originally announced in July 2017. Thai Union committed to build upon its SeaChange® sustainability strategy, including efforts to support best practice fisheries, improve other fisheries, reduce illegal and unethical practices in its global supply chains, and bring more responsibly-caught tuna to key markets.
“Thai Union is working hard to drive strong, positive change throughout many parts of the seafood industry. The original agreement contained an ambitious set of commitments to deliver improvements in Thai Union supply chains for the benefit of our oceans and marine life, and for the rights of people working in the seafood industry. There is much work still to do, but it’s clear the company takes its commitments seriously and is making progress to deliver them,” said Greenpeace Senior Oceans Campaigner Oliver Knowles. “It is now time for other companies to step up and show similar leadership, so that we can increase the pace of change to protect the oceans and seafood workers.”
Click here to learn more. Click here to read the audit report on progress against the commitment.
SeaChange® showcased at EU Parliament
The event was hosted by MEP Ricardo Serrão Santos, an active Member of the European Parliament’s Committee on Fisheries.
In January 2018, Thai Union brought together Members of the European Parliament (MEPs), sustainability experts, NGOs and industry representatives to discuss how best to join forces to drive positive change across the seafood industry. A high-level stakeholder event, organized in the European Parliament, marked the launch of a week-long exhibition on SeaChange®. During this period, visitors had the opportunity to learn about sustainability challenges in the seafood and fishing industry through a diverse range of panels, infographics and videos. The launch event welcomed more than 60 high-level representatives of the political, NGO and industry spheres with responsibilities in the field of fisheries, sustainability, trade and employment.
The event was hosted by MEP Ricardo Serrão Santos, an active Member of the European Parliament’s Committee on Fisheries, who applauded Thai Union’s leadership.
Greenpeace and Thai Union reach agreement
Thai Union committed to measures that will tackle illegal fishing and overfishing, as well as improve the livelihoods of hundreds of thousands of workers.
In 2017, Thai Union committed to measures that will tackle illegal fishing and overfishing, as well as improve the livelihoods of hundreds of thousands of workers throughout the company’s supply chains. Thai Union’s new commitments build upon its sustainability strategy SeaChange®, including efforts to support best practice fisheries, improve other fisheries, reduce illegal and unethical practices in its global supply chains, and bring more responsibly-caught tuna to key markets.
“This marks huge progress for our oceans and marine life, and for the rights of people working in the seafood industry,” said Greenpeace International Executive Director Bunny McDiarmid. “If Thai Union implements these reforms, it will pressure other industry players to show the same level of ambition and drive much needed change. Now is the time for other companies to step up, and show similar leadership.”
Click here to learn more.
Thai Union conducts safety and health workshops
The workshops brought together vessel owners, captains, crew supervisors, crew members and other staff of suppliers.
Thai Union, in partnership with International Labour Organization (ILO) and the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF), in 2018 began to host health and safety training workshops for its suppliers as part of the company’s Capacity Building for Fisher Safety at Sea Program.
Thai Union’s Capacity Building for Fisher Safety at Sea Program has been recognized as part of the capacity building initiative within the ILO Ship to Shore Program funded by the European Union which works closely with the Thai Government.
Third-party auditing on Thai fishing vessels
Thai Union completed its first industry collaborative third-party audit, conducted by global safety consulting and certification company UL.
Thai Union, with the support of several of its customers, recently completed its first industry collaborative third-party audit, conducted by global safety consulting and certification company UL, on some Thai commercial fishing vessels supplying the company’s business. The third-party audit was conducted in line with SeaChange®, to drive meaningful improvements across the entire global seafood industry. It included 240 vessels in its sample size and helped identify potential labor and human rights abuses, as well as to improve performance of the Thai fleet by creating a targeted action plan based on its results.
Thai Union participates in Bali Process
CEOs and business leaders advise governments on how to prevent and combat human trafficking, modern slavery and related abuses.
Held in Perth, Australia in August 2017, Thai Union participated in the Bali Process Government and Business Forum, which allows governments to better engage the private sector to combat human trafficking, forced labor and related exploitation. Dr. Darian McBain, Thai Union’s Global Director for Sustainable Development, participated in two speaking panels addressing issues of modern slavery in supply chains. She also had the opportunity to deliver a floor statement highlighting Thai Union’s efforts to eradicate these exploitative issues. In 2018, Thai Union participated in the second annual Bali Process Government and Business Forum as well.
The Bali Process on People Smuggling, Trafficking in Persons and Related Transnational Crime (Bali Process) has raised regional awareness of these namesake human rights issues. It is a forum for policy dialogue, information sharing and practical cooperation to help the region address these challenges.
Read more Progress Reports
Modern Slavery Act Statement 2017
Learn about the latest progress on our activities to eliminate modern slavery and forced labor within our operations and supply chains.
Find the latest progress on our activities to eliminate modern slavery and forced labor within our operations and supply chains in the UK Modern Slavery Act Statement 2017 by clicking here.
Supporting new regulation to protect workers
Regulation requires Thai vessel owners to provide a satellite communication system and device onboard for workers at sea outside national waters.
Thai Union supported 2018 regulation from the Thai government requiring Thai vessel owners operating outside of national waters to provide a satellite communication system and device onboard for workers at sea. The regulation (Ministerial Regulation on Labor Protection in Sea Fishing Work (No. 2) B.E. 2561) states the system must be able to support the transmission of at least a 1 MB text message per person per month for at least one-fourth of workers onboard, and the employer must pay for these devices. The initiative aims to enhance the quality of life for captain and crew by providing a channel of communication to contact families or make a complaint and report any problems that might have occurred at sea.
The development reflects the government’s commitment to protect workers in the fisheries sector from falling victim to forced labor and human trafficking, to improve the management of labor in Thai fisheries to be more effective and to work toward the ratification of the International Labor Organization’s (ILO) Work in Fishing Convention (C188).
Thai Union goes digital for sustainability
Innovative digital traceability pilot project helped promote digital traceability, as well as boost human rights and worker voice in the seafood industry.
The pilot project has the potential to improve traceability and transparency throughout Thai waters, as well as the greater fishing industry since many issues in Thailand replicate themselves in other fishing communities around the world. State-of-the-art Inmarsat Fleet One terminals were successfully installed on fishing vessels in Thailand to promote digital traceability, which helps ensure more ethical and transparent seafood supply chains. Crew members, captains and fleet owners were empowered to use mobile phone chat applications to connect with families and peers around the world while at sea—an industry first for Thai fisheries. Click here to learn more in this short film.
Demonstration boat to promote human rights launches
Initiative raises awareness among boat owners, captains and crew of best practices to ensure the fair, safe and legal treatment of workers on vessels.
Thai Union and Nestlé in 2017 launched the successful first departure of a demonstration boat built to raise awareness among fishing boat owners, captains and crew of best practices to ensure the fair, safe and legal treatment of workers on vessels in the Thai fishing industry.
The two companies, in collaboration with Verité, renovated a standard Thai fishing boat, transforming it into a modern model with improved working conditions and labor standards on board. The initiative was originally created in March 2016, supported by the Thai Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA), Southeast Asian Fisheries Development Center (SEAFDEC) and the Thai Department of Fisheries (DOF). The vessel was renovated to meet standards set by the International Labour Organization’s (ILO) C188 convention for human rights at sea, as well as to comply with Thailand’s updated fisheries regulations.
Thai Union’s Vessel Code of Conduct
Thai Union's Vessel Code of Conduct reflects the unique set of working conditions on fishing vessels that necessitate special consideration.
In 2017, we introduced our Fishing Vessel Improvement Program and Vessel Code of Conduct, reflecting the unique set of working conditions on fishing vessels that necessitate special consideration. The Vessel Code of Conduct is an extension of the Thai Union Business Labor and Ethics Code of Conduct, which is built on 12 fundamental principles designed to reinforce a culture of integrity and is aligned with the United Nations Global Compact principles of basic responsibilities to people and upholding their basic rights. The 12 fundamental principles frame both codes because they apply to every part of Thai Union’s business. However, the VCoC features clauses specifically tailored for application to vessels. The VCoC is available to view here.
Thai Union’s Business Ethics and Code of Conduct
Our Business Ethics and Code of Conduct has been presented to all our suppliers and seeks to guarantee that all our suppliers adhere to Thai Union’s own standards.
In 2015 we updated our stringent Business Ethics and Labor Code of Conduct and in 2016 started rolling this out to suppliers globally. The aim is to promote higher levels of accountability and transparency throughout the supply chain and is applied to all of our group companies and business partners.
The Code of Conduct clearly sets out Thai Unions principles. These include requirements to ensure:
- that workers’ rights are fully protected;
- business is conducted with consideration to social and environmental impacts;
- business is conducted with integrity and within the terms of the law.
Any companies or suppliers who want to work with us must sign an acknowledgement of our Code of Conduct, confirming they will strictly adhere to our mandatory 12 principles.
Our Code of Conduct is available in 19 languages at http://www.thaiunion.com/en/sustainability/sustainability-at-thai-union/code-of-conduct
Read more Progress Reports
Establishing an independent worker helpline
Thai Union has a helpline for workers to report any employment issues they might experience or witness, and receive immediate guidance and advice.
Since 2014 we have been partnering with the Issara Institute to improve the conditions for workers in Thailand. In 2015 we worked together to provide workers with access to Issara’s independent worker helpline – available in five languages – in our factories and ports and we continue to support the Issara Institute’s Inclusive Labor Monitoring Program in our own facilities and supply chains. For further information see http://www.projectissara.org/
Protecting pre-processing workers
We have brought the pre-processing of shrimp in-house, contracting workers directly so we can guarantee safe and legal employment.
In 2016 over one thousand former employees from external pre-processing facilities have been employed to work in Thai Union factories in Thailand. We ended all relationships with external pre-processing facilities so we have full oversight of all processing stages in the supply chain. This move has provided safe and legal employment for an additional 1,200 workers in our factories in Samut Sakhon.
Verifying legal labor in our shrimp feed supply chain
We have conducted an external audit of our full shrimp feed supply chain to verify the legal status of workers on vessels.
In 2016, 100 percent of our shrimp feed supply chain was externally audited by UL. As a member of the Seafood Task Force, this is part of our work towards establishing traceability systems.
Thai Union partnering to help human trafficking victims
We provide practical support, medical help and legal aid to victims of human trafficking in Thailand.
In 2015, we initiated a pilot program with the Labour Rights Promotion Network (LPN) Foundation to deliver counseling, medical assistance, temporary food and shelter, and to provide legal aid to repatriated men who had been victims of human trafficking. During this program, Thai Union offered employment to the rescued men, which seven accepted. These men were given a thorough medical assessment, accommodation and their rental fees for the first month. The men began work in our fish production department in August 2015. We also work with the Issara Institute in Thailand to offer humanitarian aid, safe and legal employment, and support for victims of human trafficking or forced labor.
In 2016 we also offered this program to workers in other industries in Thailand, and are developing a scalable and sustainable model for this project.
Zero recruitment fees
Our ethical migrant recruitment policy is protecting workers in Thailand from the risk of extortion by unscrupulous labor agents and brokers.
In 2016, as part of our ethical migrant recruitment policy, we launched a zero recruitment fees commitment for all future recruitment of workers for our Thai facilities. By recruiting locally or directly through licensed agents in border countries, we are protecting workers from the risk of extortion by unlicensed agents and brokers. This reduces the risk of workers becoming involved in debt bondage or forms of forced labor.
Helping our suppliers to improve
Recognizing suppliers sometimes need some help in addressing labor management and oversight practices, we are now providing practical support and guidance to help them implement real improvements.
In 2014 our subsidiary, Chicken of the Sea (COSI), decided that audits alone were not enough to help suppliers improve their labor standards. We found that many wanted to improve their practices, but lacked the in-house knowledge to do so promptly and effectively. So COSI has introduced a “performance improvement plan (PIP)” approach. Now, working with the NGO Verité, a third-party audit team conducts an initial assessment to determine performance gaps, and then works with the supplier over the following year to develop new policies, change or introduce new practices, and to create better data management systems. Since moving to a PIP model, COSI has seen remarkable improvement, with all audited suppliers making substantial progress against the requirements of our Business Ethics and Labor Code of Conduct.
In 2016 Verité began training our own auditors in Thailand to extend this program.
Read more Progress Reports
Ensuring our migrant employees know their rights
As part of our long-term labor empowerment program, we have trained all our migrant workers so they are aware of their employment and welfare rights.
Since 2014 migrant workers employed in our facilities across Thailand have received formal training on Thai labor and social welfare regulations. The program provides workers with information, support and empowerment through knowledge and communication, working on delivery with local NGO partners as well as the International Labor Organisation.
Our Partners in Achieving
Safe & Legal Labor
Humanity United is a foundation dedicated to bringing new approaches to global problems that have long been considered intractable. Working from a belief that whatever problems humans create humans can solve, it builds, leads, and supports efforts to change the systems that suppress human rights and contribute to human suffering.
International Transport Workers’ Federation
International Transport Workers’ Federation
The International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) is a democratic, voluntary and affiliate-led federation of 670 trade unions, in 140 countries, representing 19.7 million working men and women in all transport sectors. It campaigns for transport workers’ rights, equality, and justice.
Verité works to promote ethical labor practice in the seafood sector through advocacy and research that sheds further light on the problem, and through development of resources and approaches that help governments and companies build practical, sustainable solutions.
Through our US subsidiary, Chicken of the Sea, we are working with Verité to audit suppliers and help them develop new policies and better management systems to address labor issues.
Seafood Task Force
Seafood Task Force
The Seafood Task Force (formerly the Shrimp Sustainable Supply Chain Task Force) is a multi-stakeholder alliance of European and American retailers, their suppliers, NGOs and the major Thai shrimp processors and feed companies.
As a member of the Seafood Task Force, Thai Union is working towards key deliverable objectives designed to drive positive change in the industry.
Migrant Workers Rights Network (MWRN)
Migrant Workers Rights Network (MWRN)
MWRN promotes and strengthens Myanmar migrant workers’ rights, primarily those residing and working in Thailand. It is a key partner for Thai Union, supporting us on a number of initiatives to ensure all workers enjoy safe and legal labor.
At our request, MWRN has developed a social dialog project in which it speaks to migrant workers on-the-ground in factories and outside the factories without any member of Thai Union present so it can gain a true and honest assessment of the experience of workers. MWRN is working with us to train migrant workers on their human and employment rights, as well as on our ethical migrant recruitment policy. It is also supporting us by providing an independent audit of the labor practices of our supply chain in Thailand.
Labour Protection Network
Labour Protection Network
LPN is committed to protecting and improving the lives of migrant workers in Thailand. It advocates for equality both in the workplace and the community, and helps families integrate into the Thai society.
Thai Union has worked with LPN since 2013 providing migrant workers with training and guidance on child labor, their children’s rights to education, and school enrollment.
Issara means ‘freedom’ in several Southeast Asian languages. The Issara Institute works to tackle human trafficking and forced labor in Southeast Asia.
Issara Institute provides workers with a telephone helpline and social media app – both provide advice and allow workers to report abuse they may have witnessed. We are introducing Issara helplines at all Thai Union factories and ports.
International Labour Organization (ILO)
International Labour Organization (ILO)
ILO is a tripartite United Nations agency that brings together governments, employers and worker representatives of 187 member states. It aims to promote rights at work, encourage decent employment opportunities, enhance social protection and strengthen dialog on work-related issues.
Thai Union has worked with ILO on its Good Labor Practices (GLP) program since 2013; setting standards throughout our entire supply chain to ensure no child or forced labor is used and that workers are free, legally employed, safe, and do not suffer discrimination.