Sunday, March 30, 2014

Sunday, March 30, 2014
3

 NO ONE IS TREATED WITH KID GLOVES AT THAI RUBBER PRODUCTS FACTORY! - claim.

BUT COMPANY SAYS NOT TRUE AND HAS INITIATED A 'BEST PLACE TO WORK' CAMPAIGN

Migrant workers in a factory in Thailand producing Marigold rubber gloves have said they are forced to work 13 hour days without overtime or proper breaks, are refused holidays public or otherwise, and when they go home at night are unprotected from assault or even rape.


The Burmese workers at the Siam Sempermed factory in Hat Yai, Southern Thailand, claim they are paid below the wage minimum, get none of the breaks proscribed by law, and are even cheated over costs for such items as work permits, according to the Finnish Consumer Watchdog ‘Finnwatch’.

The Austrian company which owns the business Semperit (Austria) alongside Sri Trang Group (Thailand), claims Finnwatch, has been evasive in their answers and put the research down to hearsay.

But Finnwatch say they have taped all interviews and kept documentary evidence of goings on at the Hat Yai company, which also produces gloves for Nova, Sensicare and Fitguard, and their own brands (below). But Finnwatch has revised a press release issued with an embargo for today's date - and have inserted the word 'suspect' into a press release.

Finnwatch say they are protecting the identities of their researchers in Thailand after the Natural Fruit Company, which they accused of abusing migrant Burmese workers in Prachuap Khiri Kan Province took out criminal libel proceedings and a US$100 million civil case against their principal researcher Briton Andy Hall from Spalding, Lincs.



They may have anticipated that Siam Sempermed would react in the same way.

“ Finnwatch informed Siam Sempermed's European owner Semperit about these labour rights violations already in December 2013, but the company turned a deaf ear to this whistle blowing.

“Instead of addressing the situation of labour rights violations, Semperit has continued to deny all accusations and said that the company has never heard of any problems in its Thai factory.”

Semperit claim to Finnwatch that they were audited in March 2013 by The BSCI - Business Social Compliance Initiative. According to Semperit, “..external audits have underlined the proper manner in which we deal with our employees as well as our compliance with all prevailing labour regulations in Thailand.”

But in a statement to Finnwatch, BSCI  said clearly “This [Semperit] statement does not reflect the findings gathered through the BSCI audits and therefore puts the credibility of BSCI in question.”

BSCI further stated that it will take action regarding Semperit if the company does not correct its prior statement to Finnwatch.



THE FINN WATCH REPORT
An Austrian company, Semperit, is one of the world’s leading hospital glove manufacturers. 
Semperit nitrile and natural rubber gloves are produced in Thailand in factories co-owned by Semperit alongside Sri Trang Group (Thailand). Semperit and Sri Trang Group’s factory complex, consisting of three separate factories, is called Siam Sempermed and is located on the outskirts of Hat Yai city, Songkhla province in Southern Thailand. Siam Sempermed is situated in a rubber industry area amongst many rubber plantations and rubber product factories. 
US based Kimberly Clark, also producing rubber gloves, is situated in the immediate surrounds of Siam Sempermed factory compound. 
Siam Sempermed’s other smaller Thai factory is situated in Surat Thani province, North
of Songkhla Province but still in Southern Thailand. This particular factory is not studied in this report. According to Semperit, 70 % of its workers work in Asia, mostly in Thailand.
 
Semperit gloves are marketed in Finland by One Med Oy and are used in several Finnish medical care districts across the country. In 2014, Semperit gloves were used in Southwest Finland, South Karelia, Kainuu, Länsi-Pohja, Satakunta and Lapland hospital districts, amongst others.


Semperit turned a deaf ear to whistleblowers


Finnwatch was informed about poor working conditions at Siam Sempermed complex at the end of 2013. Finnwatch speedily contacted Semperit and informed about the reported labour rights violations, urging the company to investigate serious claims made against Siam Sempermed. 
Semperit replied to Finnwatch’s communica- tion but was mostly interested in who had been in contact with workers or conducted workplace interviews and whether the factory had given permission for such inter- views. Semperit did not provide Finnwatch information on how they were going to react to the serious allegations made against Siam Sempermed.

At the end of January 2014, local researchers assisting Finnwatch reported that there had been no improvements in Siam Sempermed’s labour conditions. Since no progress was evident from non-public dialogue, Finnwatch decided to conduct further field research into factory conditions. 
During field research in January 2014, 18 workers were interviewed by Finnwatch’s local researcher. All interviews were recorded and other related evidence of labour conditions including workers’ ID cards, pictures from inside the factory and documents from the factory notice board were also gathered together. 
All interviewed workers were migrant workers from Myanmar who worked in Siam Sempermed’s packing department in tasks that involved straightening out and then placing rubber gloves into boxes. 
Besides Semperit’s own labels, Sempercare and Semperguard gloves, Siam Sempermed factory also produces and packs Marigold, Sensicare, Nova and Fitguard branded gloves. 
The field research gave strong indications that international labour rights as well as domestic Thai laws were being violated in the Siam Sempermed factory. 
 Semperit has denied all field research results and answered in only short sentences to some of the findings. According to Semperit, the information gathered in worker interviews is based on ”speculation and hearsay”. 
The company actively objected to the publishing of Finnwatch’s research on labour conditions at the Siam Sempermed factory complex.


Minimum salaries are not being paid and workers are forced  to work overtime

The field research commissioned by Finnwatch discovered that workers in Siam Sempermed packing department were forced to work excessive hours and were unable to influence their daily working hours.



Work at Siam Sempermed is conducted in three shifts and excessive working time was reported to be a problem in all shifts. The packing department workers working in the morning shift reported, for example, that in order to meet their daily production targets, they started working at 4.30 am daily.  
However, they were not allowed to swipe their ID cards until the official starting time of around 7am. 
According to interviewed workers, strict targets were implemented and increased in 2013 after the domestic minimum wage rose to 300 baht per day across the whole of Thailand.
In an official complaint to local authorities, some Siam Sempermed workers stated that they were forced to pack 14 boxes of gloves before they were able to leave the work. Workers who demanded overtime payments were fired.
 
According to interviewed workers, targets laid down by the factory vary between different kinds of gloves and box sizes. In one box there are at least tens of smaller glove cartons.
In addition, it was reported that Siam Sempermed workers were prohibited from taking legally required breaks. 
 
According to Thai law, a worker should have a break of at least one hour during eight hours of daily work. In addition, there should be at least a 20 minute break before starting over time that lasts for two or more hours. 


As it became evident during the field research, workers in Siam Sempermed are unable
to take these required breaks and instead during their 13-hour work day have only one lunch break which often lasts less than half an hour due to workers hurrying to eat and get back to work to fulfill their work targets.
Accordingly, workers salary varied from 300 to 400 baht (7–9 euros) for a 13-hour day. Instead of the minimum wage in Thailand (300 baht per 8-hour day) and an official over time payment (56 baht per hour), workers at Siam Sempermed are paid in piece meal rates. However, interviewed workers stated that they did not understand the principles and amounts behind these piece meal rates as they were not clearly announced or explained to them.
During the field research, workers in Siam Sempermed did not receive any personal pay slips or work contracts. Salaries were announced on the factory’s board but the amounts given on the board differed from the amounts paid into workers’ bank accounts. Apparently salaries announced on the factory board do not include deductions for accommodation and documents. 
According to interviewed workers, targets laid down by the factory vary between different kinds of gloves and box sizes. In one box there are at least tens of smaller glove cartons.
In addition, it was reported that Siam Sempermed workers were prohibited from taking legally required breaks. According to Thai law, a worker should have a break of at least one hour during eight hours of daily work.
 
In addition, there should be at least a 20 minute break before starting over time that lasts for two or more hours. As it became evident during the field research, workers in Siam Sempermed are unable to take these required breaks and instead during their 13-hour work day have only one lunch break which often lasts less than half an hour due to workers hurrying to eat and get back to work to fulfill their work targets. 
Accordingly, workers salary varied from 300 to 400 baht (7–9 euros) for a 13-hour day. Instead of the minimum wage in Thailand (300 baht per 8-hour day) and an official over time payment (56 baht per hour), workers at Siam Sempermed are paid in piece meal rates. 
However, interviewed workers stated that they did not understand the principles and amounts behind these piece meal rates as they were not clearly announced or explained to them.
During the field research, workers in Siam Sempermed did not receive any personal pay slips or work contracts. Salaries were announced on the factory’s board but the amounts given on the board differed from the amounts paid into workers’ bank accounts. Apparently salaries announced on the factory board do not include deductions for accommodation and documents.
 
After Finnwatch informed Semperit about fieldwork findings, workers were told to sign a working contract in Burmese language.  
Finnwatch received a copy of such contract recently and it showed wrong dates of signatures (for instance, the year 2011).  
Apparently, wrong dates have been inserted into a contract of employment so that it looks like the contract was signed at the beginning of employment. However, the daily wage in a 2011 dated contract received by Finnwatch was 300 baht, the legal minimum wage only since the beginning of year 2013. 
It was reported that workers are not allowed to have annual holidays and, in addition, national holidays are often prohibited. Interviewed workers stated that workers did not receive double payment required by law when working during a national holiday. 
Several workers also reported that Siam Sempermed did not pay salary during sick leave periods. Salaries were also left unpaid even when a worker had a sick leave certificate from a hospital. Furthermore, some workers reported that supervisors did not allow sick workers to return home in the middle of a working day. 
As a result of all these pressures, only a few interviewed workers had visited outside Siam Sempermed factory area during the last year. This was due to the unfair and long working hours and the prohibition of holiday leave. 
In essence, a worker from the factory packing department is practically restricted to stay in the factory area day in and day out. Workers participating in this field research informed Finnwatch researchers that they were exhausted and that they were in desperate need of a holiday and shorter working days. 


 UNLAWFUL TERMINATION OF EMPLOYMENT 
According to interviewed workers, Siam Sempermed is undertaking unlawful employment termination  and has been dismissing unlawfully a significant number of migrant workers frequently. 
Dismissed employees have not received official severance payments guaranteed under domestic law. In addition, it was reported that workers are being dismissed without  a lawful reason. For instance, workers were recently dismissed for taking a day off during a national holiday. 
Furthermore, workers participating in this field research reported that Siam Sempermed did not provide dismissed workers with  bay jingo awk certificates, hence making it difficult for them to obtain a new work placement. This certificate is an official resignation letter which is needed by migrant workers in order to acquire new employment legally.
Some workers unlawfully dismissed from Siam Sempermed filed a complaint with Thai labour protection officials in December 2013. However, the complaint was rejected by the Songkhla labour protection office in February2014. 
 
The labour protection office ruled that since the workers had signed a resignation letter, they were not entitled to any compensation. The office further stated that it was insignificant that the migrant workers had not even understood the content of the resignation letter that was written  in a language they did not understand. 
Workers’ complaint to the officials also reported unlawful salaries and working hours in Siam Sempermed but the authorities didn’t investigate these issues properly. Due to language and financial restraints, it would be extremely difficult for migrant workers to appeal this decision to the Songkhla labour court and hence the dismissal remains unchallenged. 
It was suggested by interviewed packing department workers that one of the main reasons for unlawful employment dismissals was a desire by human resource officials to obtain a high recruitment fee paid by new migrant workers when applying for work at the factory. The recruitment fee currently charged to new workers at Siam Sempermed is approximately 9,000 baht (200 euros) and all new migrant workers must pay it in order to get a job at the factory. 


 UNLAWFUL WORK PERMIT AND ACCOMMODATION DEDUCTIONS FROM SALARIES 
In addition to high recruitment fees, Finnwatch researchers found out that new migrant workers at Siam Sempermed were obliged to pay excessive amounts of money for a variety of documents ranging from work permits and visa procedures to passport extentions.  
The document costs and recruitment fees were deducted directly from workers’ salaries. Hence, a significant amount of money was deducted from salaries and the costs for these procedures exceeded by 3 to 4 times the official costs. Moreover, workers rarely knew the real prices for documents they had to pay for as they had not received any receipts when making payments. 
Even though all interviewed workers reported that they were regularly paying for work permits, only a few actually had a valid original copy of their work permit receipt in their possession. According to the workers, these important  documents were kept by the company. Thai law clearly states that it is unlawful to confiscate a work permit or its original receipt. 
  CHILDREN WORKING WITH FALSE PASSPORTS IN THE FACTORY? 
Workers also reported children and young adults working in Siam Sempermed factory. Interviewees alleged that young adults from15 to 17 years of age were employed as full time workers in the factory, including on the night shift. In Thailand, it is illegal to employ a young person of age 15 to 17 to work overtime, in dangerous work conditions or at night time. Consequently, workers reported to Finnwatch that young adults working in the factory used passports that had the wrong age printed in them. 
Passports with wrong ages printed (issued by Myanmar officials) are commonly used in Thailand. This issue has been revealed also in two previous Finnwatch reports from Thailand. According to Semperit, a strict policy is in place not to hire any workers under 18 years of age. 
Finnwatch does not conclude that factories knowingly employ young workers and admits that the problem of modified or false passports is difficult to tackle.
If young workers are encountered in factories, they should not be dismissed but instead their health should be adequately protected and they should be able to make a living without  having to do unreasonably long working hours or work night shifts or in dangerous conditions.
Instead of engaging on such challenges of young workers, Semperit simply repeated their position that the factory does not hire workers under 18 years of age.
 
DISCRIMINATION AGAINST MIGRANT WORKERS 


Discrimination against migrant workers is a general problem in Thailand. Not surprisingly, interviewees participating in this field research stated that the management of Siam Sempermed and its supervisors were also discriminating against migrant workers on a regular basis.  
Accordingly, Thai workers were reportedly being paid properly for hours they worked whereas migrant workers regularly received unlawfully low payments due to piece meal rates. Most Thai workers were, however, working as supervisors in the factory. 
Further examples of discrimination against migrant workers were also reported. For instance, Siam Sempermed workers expressed their dissatisfaction with translators provided by the factory. 
It was alleged that the translators were unqualified and this resulted in ongoing misunderstandings. This, in turn, led to workers being unaware of their rights. 
Interviewees informed Finnwatch researchers that the working conditions in the factory were not explained to them at all, or if explained, the explanation was done in an incomprehensible way. Information about working hours, over time hours, piece meal rates and salaries were generally announced only in Thai language making it impossible for non-Thai speakers to understand the information.
Additionally, many of the interviewed packing department workers reported that they were completely unaware of health and safety regulations as well as the presence of  factory welfare committees.
 
It was suggested that even if migrant workers found out about an existing welfare committee, they were most probably prohibited from joining it.
WALKING HOME IS DANGEROUS

The field research commissioned by Finnwatch also suggested that both female and male workers were facing frequent violent attacks on their way to and from work. These attacks include apparently several rapes and attempted abductions. 
The attacks occurred especially at late night and in the early morning when workers had to go to work in darkness to meet production targets imposed on them. According to workers, local gangs were behind the attacks. 
Siam Sempermed factory is situated next to one of the main roads leading to Malaysia, where serious traffic accidents are common. Workers walk or bike to work dangerously on the shoulder of the road and no transportation is provided by the company, particularly from accommodation. 
Workers suggested that Siam Sempermed’s management could improve safety of its workers when travelling to and from work by providing safe transportation.
 

TAMPERING AUDITS 
Finally, field research discovered that the management of Siam Sempermed was systematically trying to influence audit reports. All the workers interviewed during this research stated that Siam Sempermed’s staff and management were training factory workers to answer ’correctly’  when speaking with visitors and auditors. 
Workers are requested to lie about break times, holiday payments and sick leave coverage. Furthermore, interviewed workers told Finnwatch researchers that auditors and visitors rarely spoke to workers anyway when visiting the factory on quick tours.
Siam Sempermed reactions to Finnwatch findings 
 
Semperit reacted slowly to Finnwatch findings. More meaningful dialogue began only after Finnwatch informed Semperit in February2014 that its fieldwork research findings would be published.
Semperit’s attitude towards the findings was rather defensive and the company told Finnwatch that the Siam Sempermed factory had never violated local laws during over 20 years of activity.
 
Violations of local labour laws are Common in Thailand and different types of misunderstandings, corruption and unlawful activities have been found in every prior study Finnwatch has conducted in Thai factories in a number of different sectors. 
Unionisation levels in Thailand are minimal, Thailand has not ratified all ILO core conventions and governance priority conventions whilst abuse of vulnerable migrant workers is systematic and common. 
The fact that Semperit has not heard of any such misbehaviour inside its Siam Sempermed factory does not, according to Finnwatch, mean that there are no problems in the factory. Instead, it implies that the factory’s appeal mechanisms and responsibility monitoring systems are lacking in quality. 
Semperit told Finnwatch that a BSCI-auditing was conducted in the factory in March 2013. According to the company, the audit did not reveal any unlawful practices and that the few non-compliance comments regarding international labour rights standards were ’minor’. 
In its official statement to Finnwatch Semperit claims that “external audits have underlined the proper manner in which we deal with our employees as well as our compliance with all prevailing regulations in Thailand. However, Semperit refused to give Finnwatch the auditing report and refused even to reveal the auditing results in numbers. The auditing reports of BSCI are not public making it impossible to confirm these claims made by Semperit. 
Semperit asked Finnwatch to postpone the publishing of this report until May 2014 so that the company could prove its compliance in another BSCI-audit. Finnwatch had no reason to accept this request as the company had been informed about challenges in the Siam Sempermed factory already in December 2013. According to Finnwatch, Semperit cannot only rely on seldom third party audits when issues concerning working conditions are taking place in their own factories. 
Semperit didn’t reply to Finnwatch findings in detail and settled to comment on some of the findings only in a few sentences. For Finnwatch, it seems that Semperit office in Austria does not have expertise in corporate social responsibility issues whilst they also seem to have no direct control on working conditions in their joint venture factory in Thailand, Siam Sempermed. 
As Finnwatch and Semperit views on the working conditions in Siam Sempermed factory in Thailand are very different, Finnwatch asked Business Social Compliance Initiative BSCI to comment on Siam Sempermed’s alleged audit results. 
In its statement to Finnwatch BSCI stated that “(Semperit) statement does not reflect the findings gathered through the BSCI audits and therefore puts the credibility of BSCI in question”.
BSCI also continued that “should the producer not correct the above mention statement, the BSCI secretariat will need to clarify the information about the audit results and related corrective actions with the relevant stakeholder”.
 



Siam Sempermed reactions to Finnwatch findings 

Semperit reacted slowly to Finnwatch findings. More meaningful dialogue began only after Finnwatch informed Semperit in February2014 that its fieldwork research findings would be published. 
Semperit’s attitude towards the findings was rather defensive and the company told Finnwatch that the Siam Sempermed factory had never violated local laws during over 20 years of activity. 
Violations of local labour laws are Common in Thailand and different types of misunderstandings, corruption and unlawful activities have been found in every prior study Finnwatch has conducted in Thai factories in a number of different sectors. Unionisation levels in Thailand are minimal, Thailand has not ratified all ILO core conventions and governance priority conventions whilst abuse of vulnerable migrant workers is systematic and common. 
The fact that Semperit has not heard of any such misbehaviour inside its Siam Sempermed factory does not, according to Finnwatch, mean that there are no problems in the factory. Instead, it implies that the factory’s appeal mechanisms and responsibility monitoring systems are lacking in quality. 
Semperit told Finnwatch that a BSCI-auditing was conducted in the factory in March 2013. According to the company, the audit did not reveal any unlawful practices and that the few non-compliance comments regarding international labour rights standards were ’minor’. 
In its official statement to Finnwatch Semperit claims that “external audits have underlined the proper manner in which we deal with our employees as well as our compliance with all prevailing regulations in Thailand. 
However, Semperit refused to give Finnwatch the auditing report and refused even to reveal the auditing results in numbers. The auditing reports of BSCI are not public making it impossible to confirm these claims made by Semperit. 
Semperit asked Finnwatch to postpone the publishing of this report until May 2014 so that the company could prove its compliance in another BSCI-audit. Finnwatch had no reason to accept this request as the company had been informed about challenges in the Siam Sempermed factory already in December 2013. According to Finnwatch, Semperit cannot only rely on seldom third party audits when issues concerning working conditions are taking place in their own factories. 
Semperit didn’t reply to Finnwatch findings in detail and settled to comment on some of the findings only in a few sentences. For Finnwatch, it seems that Semperit office in Austria does not have expertise in corporate social responsibility issues whilst they also seem to have no direct control on working conditions in their joint venture factory in Thailand, Siam Sempermed. 
As Finnwatch and Semperit views on the working conditions in Siam Sempermed factory in Thailand are very different, Finnwatch asked Business Social Compliance Initiative BSCI to comment on Siam Sempermed’s alleged audit results. 
In its statement to Finnwatch BSCI stated that “(Semperit) statement does not reflect the findings gathered through the BSCI audits and therefore puts the credibility of BSCI in question”.  
BSCI also continued that “should the producer not correct the above mention statement, the BSCI secretariat will need to clarify the information about the audit results and related corrective actions with the relevant stakeholder”. 
Violations of local labour laws are Common in Thailand and different types of misunderstandings, corruption and unlawful activities have been found in every prior study Finnwatch has conducted in Thai factories in a number of different sectors. Unionisation levels in Thailand are minimal, Thailand has not ratified all ILO core conventions and governance priority conventions whilst abuse of vulnerable migrant workers is systematic and common. 
The fact that Semperit has not heard of any such misbehaviour inside its Siam Sempermed factory does not, according to Finnwatch, mean that there are no problems in the factory. Instead, it implies that the factory’s appeal mechanisms and responsibility monitoring systems are lacking in quality. 
Semperit told Finnwatch that a BSCI-auditing was conducted in the factory in March 2013. According to the company, the audit did not reveal any unlawful practices and that the few non-compliance comments regarding international labour rights standards were ’minor’. In its official statement to Finnwatch Semperit claims that “external audits have underlined the proper manner in which we deal with our employees as well as our compliance with all prevailing regulations in Thailand. However, Semperit refused to give Finnwatch the auditing report and refused even to reveal the auditing results in numbers. 
The auditing reports of BSCI are not public making it impossible to confirm these claims made by Semperit. 
Semperit asked Finnwatch to postpone the publishing of this report until May 2014 so that the company could prove its compliance in another BSCI-audit. 
Finnwatch had no reason to accept this request as the company had been informed about challenges in the Siam Sempermed factory already in December 2013. 
According to Finnwatch, Semperit cannot only rely on seldom third party audits when issues concerning working conditions are taking place in their own factories. 
Semperit didn’t reply to Finnwatch findings in detail and settled to comment on some of the findings only in a few sentences. For Finnwatch, it seems that Semperit office in Austria does not have expertise in corporate social responsibility issues whilst they also seem to have no direct control on working conditions in their joint venture factory in Thailand, Siam Sempermed.
As Finnwatch and Semperit views on the working conditions in Siam Sempermed factory in Thailand are very different, Finnwatch asked Business Social Compliance Initiative BSCI to comment on Siam Sempermed’s alleged audit results. 
In its statement to Finnwatch BSCI stated that “(Semperit) statement does not reflect the findings gathered through the BSCI audits and therefore puts the credibility of BSCI in question”.  
BSCI also continued that “should the producer not correct the above mention statement, the BSCI secretariat will need to clarify the information about the audit results and related corrective actions with the relevant stakeholder”.

RECOMMENDATIONS
• Semperit should hire personnel that have expertise on corporate social responsibility issues. Semperit should make sure that it can monitor working conditions in its joint venture factory, Siam Sempermed, which is situated in a high risk labour violations country such as Thailand. 
• Semperit should commit to international responsibility standards and include responsibility as part of the company strategy and policies. 
• Production targets for workers in Siam Sempermed factory in Thailand should be abandoned. All factory workers should receive a daily wage and overtime compensation as required by domestic Thai law. All workers paid unlawfully low wages/ overtime payment need to be compensated with proper interest rate for past periods during which they were not paid in compliance with the law.



NOT TRUE SAYS COMPANY WITH 'BEST PLACE TO WORK' CAMPAIGN

Sempersed had issued a categorical denial of Finnwatch's claims before publication of its report.  Finnwatch included Sempersed's reply which follows below.



Finnwatch
Mrs. Sonja Vartiala Toiminnanjohteje Pllllskylllnrinne 7 B 62
00550 Helsinki
Finland


Vienna,March 21,2014

Subject:Siam Sempermed Thailand



Dear Mrs. Vartiala,

To begin with,we would like to clearly emphasize that we fully support the efforts of Finnwatch to promote fair workning conditions.We are also committed to ensuring a safe and fair working environment for all our employees. For this reason, we launched our own "Best place to work" campaign.

That is why we would like to take this opportunity to present our views on the findings of Finnwatch with respect to our 50% joint venture company Siam Sempermed.At the same time we would like to question whether it is fair to publish a report which, in many cases, draws upon unconfirmed speculation or information based on hearsay. Moreover, these supposed facts could be largely refuted in advance or corresponding improvement measures have already been init ated.

As announced,our partner in Thailand, a large publicly listed company, is responsible for the management  of the  factory workers in accordance with our joint venture agreement. We confronted  the  local management   with  the  results  of  18  interviews  with  workers  which Finnwatch had conveyed to us on February 7,2014.

Our management immediately reviewed the situation and assured us that Siam Sempermed complies with all labour regulations,and neither exploits its employees nor makes use of child labour. This is consistent with our own experience in more than 25 years of cooperation.Therefore,we would like to strictly reject the accusations contained in the Finnwatch report.

Moreover, external audits  have underlined  the proper manner in  which we deal with our employees as well as our compliance with all prevailing labour regulations in Thailand.These audits  are  regularly  carried  out  by  independent  institutions  as  well as  by  international customers.

We would like to briefly discuss the main criticisms contained in the Finnwatch report.:

1. Sempermed turned a deaf ear on whistleblowers

We  attach  great  importance  to  the  well-being   and  fair  treatment  of  our  employees. Unfortunately, there were misunderstandings in our communications with Finnwatch at the beginning.

For this  reason, your enquiries were first received by the responsible managers at Sempermed  on  February  7,  2014.  After  becoming  aware  of  the  alleged  grievances, Sempermed immediately began to evaluate the situation.

2.  Minimum salaries are not being paid and workers forced to work over time
Siam Sempermed adheres to all valid labour regulations in Thailand.

3.  Illegal termination of employment
Slam  Sempermed  complies  with  all  labour  regulations  pertaining  to  the  termination  of
employment relationships without exception. This includes issuing the bay jeng awk certificate.

4. Illegalwork permit and accommodation deductions from salaries
Siam Sempermed organises all the required working papers on behalf of  foreign employees (e.g. work  and residence permits and their extensions). Before employees sign their employment  contracts,  the  specific  costs  to  be  borne  by  them  due  to  administrative procedures and dealings with public authorities are disclosed. Employees are only charged the costs which they expressly approved.

It is important to note that the original documents have always remained in the possession of the employees. The only exception is the time it takes for these administrative procedures to be completed. These documents are then returned to the employees together with the working papers, a fact whichis confirmed by the employees in writing.No passports, working papers, ID cards or simliar documents have been confiscated by the company.

5.  Children working with false passports in the factory?

Siam Sempermed pursues a strict policy against child labour. No individuals are employed or hired under the age of 18. The related controls are very strict. The  suspicion voiced in the Finnwatch  report  that  people   aged  15-17  can  work  in the  company  by  having  forged documents is based  on speculation. In spite of intensive scrutiny, there was no evidence whatsoever to corroborate these suspicions.In other words, child labour at Siam Sempermed can be ruled out.


6.  Discrimination against migrant workers

Discrimination is not tolerated at Siam Sempermed. In addition, employees have the opportunity to anonymously point out alleged violations by making use of a "complaint  box". They can also speak to a trusted third party or contact the human resources department.

7.  Walking home is dangerous

Siam Sempermed condemns any kind of violence against its employees, and does everything in its power to ensure a secure environment both on the company premises and outside the plant grounds. A special security system has been installed in our facilities between the workplaces and dwellings. Moreover,the paths are well-lit. Any and all attacks of which we are aware which take place outside the premises are reported to the police or the responsible public authorities.

8.  Tampering audits
Siam Sempermed does not impose any rules or guidelines upon its employees in terms of how they speak or what they say to visitors, whether customers or audit insmutions. Siam Sempermed firmly rejects the accusation that the company incites its employees to tell lies.

To  summarise  our  comments, the criticisms  voiced  in  the  Finnwatch  report  are  not  in accordance with the facts. However, we are grateful for any suggestions as to how we can improve, and will resolutely implement constructive proposals. For example, the Finnwatch report showed that there are apparently misunderstandings and communication problems with our  employees, especially  those  from Myanmar. It seems  that they  were  not  sufficiently informed in all areas. Initial steps have been taken, for example carrying out training in the national language. We intend to expand such activities in the future.

We are open to maintaining a constructive dialogue with Finnwatch. We would like to invite Finnwatch to work together with us to develop specific  proposals as to which areas we can work on to further improve the situation of our employees in Thailand.



Best regards,

Clemens Eichler

Head of Segment Sempermed

3 comments:

  1. As an Austrian Citizen, I feel ashamed to read this.
    I already forwarded this link to Austrian Newspapers I know.

    ReplyDelete
  2. In the Land of Lies outright denial is usually the first response which, if unsuccessful in stifling publicity,will be swiftly followed by counter allegations, obfuscation, prevarication and then, if no sap can be personally pilloried for speaking the truth, they'll just ignore the problem and pretend nothing is wrong.
    The only solution is to attack the European company benefiting from the exploitation. Expecting progress in Thailand is futile, institutionally they have no regard for foreign workers and dismiss criticism on the generic grounds that it is an anti Thai conspiracy perpetrated by foreigners seeking to do them down.
    Nasty people, in a nasty region only interested in acquiring wealth and flaunting it, usually in poor taste.

    Remember that quote from Thaksin, " the UN is not my father " ....... as he and his tribe flew off to Hong Kong in Airforce 1 on yet another shopping expedition at great expense to the taxpayer. Sums them up quite neatly.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Have to admit this is a bit of an anti-climax after yesterdays teaser....a worthy story all the same..

    ReplyDelete