Italy: Guardian reports migrants face exploitative working conditions in areas supplying world's largest tobacco manufacturers

Author: Luca Muzi and Lorenzo Tondo, The Guardian (UK), Published on: 3 June 2019

"'I had pain all over my body': Italy’s tainted tobacco industry", 31 May 2019

Three of the world’s largest tobacco manufacturers, Philip Morris, British American Tobacco and Imperial Brands, are buying leaves that could have been picked by exploited African migrants working in Italy’s multi-million euro industry.

Workers including children, said they were forced to work up to 12 hours a day without contracts or sufficient health and safety equipment in Campania, a region that produces more than a third of Italy’s tobacco. Some workers said they were paid about three euros an hour.

The Guardian investigation into Italy’s tobacco industry, which spanned three years, is believed to be the first in Europe to examine the supply chain...

The multinationals all said they buy from suppliers who operate under a strict code of conduct to ensure fair treatment of workers. Philip Morris said it had not come across any abuse. Imperial and British American said they would investigate any complaints brought to their attention...

[C]hief sustainability officer at Philip Morris International, said the company is committed to ensuring safety and fair conditions in its supply chain and had not come across the issues raised...

[G]roup head of corporate affairs at British American Tobacco, said: “...Our supplier code of conduct sets out the minimum contractual standards we expect of all our suppliers worldwide, and specifically requires suppliers to ensure that their operations are free from unlawful migrant labour. This code also requires suppliers to provide all workers, including legal migrant workers, with fair wages and benefits... To support compliance, we have due diligence in place for all our third-party suppliers...”

“Where we are made aware of alleged human rights abuses [...] we investigate and where needed, take remedial action.”

[G]roup media relations manager at Imperial Tobacco, said: “Through the industry-wide sustainable tobacco programme we work with all of our tobacco suppliers to address good agricultural practices, improve labour practices and protect the environment. We purchase a very small amount of tobacco from the Campania region via a local third party supplier, with whom we are working to understand and resolve any issues.”

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Related companies: British American Tobacco Imperial Tobacco Philip Morris International