Andy Hall. Photo: Teija Laakso / maailma.net
Global unions join protest at harassment in Thailand of labour rights defender
We’ve been highlighting the case of British national Andy Hall for well over a year. He’s being sued by a Thai fruit-packing company for exposing labour rights abuses – such as child labour – in their operations. Now the TUC has joined NGOs, Global Union Federations and other national trade unions to call on the Thai pineapple trade association to put pressure on their member company to drop the charges. Just one problem. The company at the centre of it all is run by the same person who chairs the trade association!
Andy Hall is a researcher and labour rights campaigner principally working in Burma and Thailand – you can read his personal take on the current case here on Stronger Unions. He works closely with the trade unions wherever he is, and was commissioned by a Finnish NGO, Finnwatch, to produce a report on the Thai Natural Fruit Company in 2012. He found many abuses, especially of the mostly migrant, Burmese workforce, and tried to discuss these with the company management. They refused, and the report, Cheap has a high price, was issued. They sued, and after a protracted cat-and-mouse legal game (including the Thai police trying to get Andy to sign a confession written in Thai), the case is now coming to court.
The TUC has joined nearly 100 NGOs and other organisations from twenty countries all over the world to send a letter to every member of the Thai Pineapple Industry Association, requesting the removal of Wirat Pivapornpaoboon, CEO of the Natural Fruit Company as TPIA president, and expulsion of the company from membership if the case is not dropped.
Other signatories include Thai union SERC, the AFLCIO in the US (whose Solidarity Center development arm has worked closely with Andy over labour rights issues in Thailand) and the ACTU in Australia, where Andy did some of his legal training and worked closely with the Victoria trade union movement. The letter is also backed by the ITUC globally, and the federations covering the supply chain from farm to shops: food workers – the IUF – transport workers – the ITF – and retail workers – UNIglobal. Even the Building and Woodworkers’ International, BWI, have signed up along with global human rights bodies like Human Rights Watch and London-based International Centre for Trade Union Rights (ICTUR) and the Business & Human Rights Centre.
TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady has commented on the case:
“Vulnerable workers need people like Andy Hall – working with trade unions in Thailand and internationally – to stand up against exploitation and abuse. We need to be free from harassment and victimisation so we can protect working people from corporate greed and government inaction. An attack on one of us is an attack on all of us.”