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Finnish Retailers Start Investigation On Accusations Towards Thai Tuna Suppliers Thailand, January 29, 13

The leading Finnish retailer Kesko, one of the country’s leading tuna importers, is starting an investigation into accusations made by the organization Finnwatch towards poor social circumstances in two Thai tuna canneries. Kesko has been traditionally an important importer of Thai canned tuna for its private label.
On its corporate website Kesko states: “we are very sorry about the defects described in Finnwatch’s report and take them seriously. Corporate responsibility - responsible operations in relation to stakeholders - is an integral part of Kesko’s values, operations, management and day-to-day work. Human rights and employees’ rights are in a key position in product sourcing”.

“The most important violations are exploiting migrant workers and the use of child labor,” said Henri Purje, research coordinator for Finnwatch. After interviewing numerous workers at the two leading Thai processing companies. Finnwatch claims it found that these canneries employ 14 to 17-year-old migrants, carrying false passports.

Other violations at the factories include low wages, employee safety problems, lack of health insurance, lack of toilets, and harassment/discrimination against workers. At one of the processing plants, Finnwatch found that workers had to pay for their work equipment, are bullied by supervisors, and have poor health insurance.

The two canneries involved refrained from issuing public statements, but news sources say that executives within the two firms have stated that the claims in the report are not true.

Also other Finnish supermarket chains or buying groups have been purchasing significant volumes from both canneries for many years and are now taking immediate measures to attend the signaled problems.

Kesko Food has started “investigating the matter with its suppliers to report outbreaks of grievances,” according to a statement from the retailer. Both chains said that the key to preventing these problems in the future is to have their suppliers audited through the Business Social Compliance Imitative (BSCI) process. Also other groups have their staff on the case.

According to its website, BSCI supports companies that want to build an ethical supply chain “by providing them with a step-by-step development-oriented system, applicable to all sectors and all sourcing countries,” as per a statement from the organization.

“Concerned BSCI participants have been aware that these two producers of tuna were assessed as ‘non-compliant’ in BSCI audits, notably with regard to working hours and overtime, compensation and health and safety,” stated BSCI.