First Year Reflections on the IOM- Fung Group Ethical Recruitment Partnership

Date Publish: 
Wednesday, June 17, 2020
Ethical recruitment

Bangkok – In 2019, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) entered into an ethical recruitment partnership with the Fung Group of Companies, whose diverse businesses operate across global supply chains for consumer goods including trading, logistics, distribution and retail. The partnership sought to better understand and address the risks facing migrant workers in the company’s supply chains in Thailand.

The partnership came at a very opportune time considering that in 2018, it was revealed that Thailand’s garment and textile industry employed more than 500,000 workers, up to 70 per cent of whom were estimated to be women, including women migrant workers.

“Despite the significant contributions of migrant workers to the growth of Thailand’s manufacturing industry, migrants often face exploitation and unequal treatment,” said Sally Barber, IOM Thailand’s Head of Labour Migration and Human Development Unit. Barber added, “ These issues commonly start with unethical recruitment and employment practices, driven by a lack of awareness of relevant national laws and international standards.”

Fourteen suppliers to Li & Fung (a Fung Group company) undertook a self-assessment  of their recruitment and employment practices, which informed a workshop co-hosted by IOM and the Fung Group.

“The workshop delivered jointly by IOM and our company representatives demonstrated to suppliers our commitment to the ILO General Principles for Fair Recruitment as outlined in our modern slavery statement. It also allowed us to engage in a constructive dialogue about this topic with our suppliers in Thailand,” said Leanne Melnyk, Sustainability Vice-President at Fung Group.  She added that before international companies roll out a policy on responsible recruitment, it is important to build the capabilities of their supply chain partners to ensure that they understand what responsible recruitment means and provide them with practical tools for implementation.

Thirty eight representatives from 22 garment and textile suppliers to Li & Fung based in Thailand attended the workshop conducted in October 2019, during which they acquired skills that helped them adjust their policies related to migrant workers’ benefits.

Trained suppliers amended outdated organizational policies in order to align them with the revisions made to Thai law, in 2019, regarding fundamental labour rights, including equal pay, changing an employer, maternity leave, severance pay and paid leave.  “Thanks to this training, migrant workers in the supply chain can now access their benefits as prescribed by the updated Thai law. Learnings from the self-assessment conducted during our partnership with IOM were integrated into our broader modern slavery strategy,” said Ms Melnyk.

Recognizing the need to promote responsible recruitment for migrant workers within the apparel industry, IOM is implementing CREST Fashion. The project, supported by Laudes Foundation, seeks to enable actors along the supply chain to address risks of labour exploitation and abuse in their operations in Bangladesh, India and Thailand.

Through its direct partnerships with companies in the fashion industry, IOM provides strategic and practical solutions tailored to partners’ needs, and supports longer term sustainable change for the better protection of the labour and human rights of migrant workers through ethical recruitment channels, transparent employment terms and conditions, sustainable and inclusive supply chains.

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