IOM and IKEA Partner to Enhance the Protection of Thai Berry Pickers
Bangkok – Last September, over a thousand Thai berry pickers assisted through the partnership of the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and IKEA returned to Thailand from Sweden following the end of the 2021 berry season.
This is the first group of Thai migrant workers who, in July 2021, departed on their journey following the IOM-IKEA project concluded earlier this year. This multi-phase two-year initiative aimed at understanding and addressing the risks facing Thai migrant workers in IKEA’s berry supply chain through the promotion of fair and ethical recruitment.
“Although Thai recruiters and Thai authorities provide informational materials to Thai workers prior to their departure to Sweden, many migrate without having a full understanding of the nature of the work and their rights,” said Ms. Geraldine Ansart, Chief of Mission at IOM Thailand.
In response to the feedback from migrant workers assessed through the project, and to help them make an informed decision about overseas employment, IOM and IKEA developed audio-visual materials explaining working and living conditions in Sweden as well as workers’ rights and entitlements, including ways to access remediation abroad. This is the first time such materials are available in Isaan dialect of North-Eastern Thailand, where the majority of migrant workers employed in the IKEA berry supply chain are from.
“These materials inform workers like me about the working conditions in Sweden, helping us to better prepare and be more confident before starting our work overseas,” said Mr. Phayu Ramajatu, a Thai berry picker.
Every year, 3,000 to 5,000 Thai workers go to Sweden to work as berry pickers. To further advance the protection of all workers in the IKEA value chain, including Thai berry pickers in Sweden, since 2018, IOM and IKEA have worked together to promote fair and ethical recruitment.
As part of the most recent initiative, in August 2021, both partners met with the Thailand Overseas Employment Administration of the Ministry of Labour, Thailand to share findings from the completed project, discuss ways to increase the transparency of the recruitment processes of Thai berry pickers, promote fair and ethical recruitment and hand over the informational materials to the Government to benefit other seasonal migrant workers travelling to work in the Swedish berry industry.
“Ensuring fair and responsible recruitment of migrant workers across the IKEA value chain is in line with the IKEA ambitions and commitments on being a responsible business that strives to have a positive impact on people, society, and the planet,” said Ms. Azaliah Mapombere, Sustainability Development Leader at IKEA of Sweden AB.
Ms. Mapombere stressed the importance of working with other like-minded companies and stakeholders committed to fair and ethical recruitment to achieve progress and systemic change in the industry, which remains a challenge due to the complexity of international supply chains, as well as different jurisdictions regulating the recruitment process, among others. As such, this is also part of IKEA’s ongoing work as part of the Leadership Group for Responsible Recruitment, and its commitment to the Employer Pays Principle.
These multi-stakeholder efforts, involving both public and private sector actors, are also crucial to address new challenges facing migrants, such as safeguarding their health and safety during the COVID-19 pandemic and promoting better access to support services for these workers.
“Thai berry pickers are vital for the berry industry in Sweden. We want to make sure they are given the best working conditions,” said Ms. Manuela Gillå, Health Safety Environment and Quality Manager at Ransäters Invest AB, a berry collector supplying to IKEA. “Through the partnership between IOM and IKEA, we have learned more about the recruitment system in Thailand and how it could better correspond with the system in Sweden,” Ms. Gilla added.
According to Ms. Ratchanee Prompang, coordinator at PTS Service Center Co. Ltd., a company that recruited and deployed Thai berry pickers to Sweden in 2021, responsible business conduct increases the likelihood of Thai berry pickers enjoying better livelihoods and increased income. PTS also noted that it is important to eliminate the recruitment fees and migration-related costs paid by individual Thai berry pickers to increase their savings and maximize the benefits of their migration.
This project with IKEA is part of IOM’s Corporate Responsibility in Eliminating Slavery and Trafficking (CREST). CREST is a regional partnership initiative that aims to realize the potential of business to uphold the human and labour rights of migrant workers in their operations and supply chains. CREST is funded by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida).
The informational materials developed for migrant workers as a result of the IOM-IKEA project can be accessed here: Informational Videos for Thai Berry Pickers in Sweden (With English Subtitles).
For more information, please contact IOM at CRESTThailand@iom.int.