Thailand's seafood sector lost 5,000 jobs after forced labour crackdown

Thailand's seafood sector lost 5,000 jobs after forced labour crackdown

Report says 5,000 lost jobs in outsourcing ban.

THE Thai Frozen Foods Association (TFFA) will discuss plans on Saturday to help seafood pre-processing sheds and their employees, TFFA president Poj Aramwattananont said yesterday. He was responding to a report that more than 5,000 workers had lost their jobs due to measures to promote fair labour practices.

International media reports about the use of forced labour have put pressure on Thailand's seafood industry since late last year, forcing the TFFA to ban members from employing outsource pre-processing sheds. This caused many workers to lose jobs as small firms had to close down.

Poj said his association and its member companies had not abandoned former business partners. They had been trying to help outsource firms and their employees.

"I understand and sympathise with the seafood pre-processing shop owners, as we used to work together," he said.

"In order to save seafood trade exports to Western markets, we have to have this strong policy. But we will not neglect them, for sure."

Given news reports of forced labour - notably sheds that peel shrimp, trading partners in the US and EU have taken the issue very seriously.

As a result, Poj said members of his association had been forced severe ties with smaller pre-processing sheds entirely, to make sure that Thai seafood exports were not produced with forced labour at any point in the supply chain.

"The majority of our members did not use the seafood supplied by sweatshops, and only some shops use forced or child labour. But this is enough for Western markets to turn down all seafood products from Thailand," Poj explained.

"Therefore, this action is important for the survival of the Thai seafood industry."

He said association members would meet with owners of the now-closed pre-processing sheds on Saturday. The TFFA is urging its members to hire workers who lost their jobs because of the new labour measures.

Sompong Srakaew, founder of the Labour Rights Promotion Network (LPN), said the seafood industry had taken very severe measures to tackle labour-related problems, successfully reducing forced and child labour but also negatively affecting many shops that had been operating legally.

"The measure caused shops that used forced labour to close down, and that's a good thing," Sompong said. "However, some of the pre-processing shops had already applied good labour practices regarding their employees and they were badly affected as well.

"Some of them had invested more than Bt1 million to upgrade their facilities recently, and their investment may be lost.

"As our organisation promotes just and good working conditions for migrant workers, we would like to see good practices for the workers, as well as the good businesses surviving."

In regard to fears that many foreign workers could remain unemployed because of the new measures, Sompong said he expected larger companies would hire workers when expanding lines of production to make up for the closure of the pre-processing firms.

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