Thailand: NGOs allege ongoing recruitment fees & migrant worker abuses at supplier to global electronics brands; Incl. co. responses

From 2016 to 2018, Electronics Watch and the Migrant Worker Rights Network (MWRN) documented excessive recruitment-related fees and expenses that migrant workers from Myanmar pay to get a job at two sites of Cal-Comp Electronics (Thailand). Their report reveals that while working conditions have improved in some respects following buyer intervention, industry attempts to detect, remedy and prevent excessive recruitment fees and related forced labour risk have not yet been effective.

Cal-Comp is one of the leading employers of migrant workers in Thailand with an estimated migrant workforce of more than 13,000 workers, the vast majority from Myanmar. Cal-Comp’s parent company, New Kinpo Group, is a member of the Responsible Business Alliance (RBA). CalComp supplies printers, external hard disk drives and other computer peripherals to global electronics brands. Electronics Watch has shared findings and recommendations on unlawful migrant worker employment and recruitment practices at CalComp with Cal-Comp, NKG, buyers and RBA over two years to spur improvements and minimise forced labour risks.

Based on the most recent findings, Electronics Watch and MWRN are calling for Cal-Comp to urgently:

  • Fully reimburse all migrant workers who have paid illegal and excessive recruitment fees.
  • Prevent forced labour risks through zero-cost recruitment in accordance with the widely endorsed Employer Pays Principle. Cal-Comp should itself pay migrant workers’ total recruitment-related service fees and expenses in advance and ensure recruitment agents do not themselves charge workers fees.

In March 2019, Business & Human Rights Resource Centre wrote to New Kinpo Group and its subsidiary Cal-Comp Electronics, in addition to Hitachi, Huawei, HP, Konica Minolta, Lexmark, Panasonic, Ricoh, Seagate Technology, Sharp, Toshiba and Western Digital, inviting them to respond to the allegations made in the report. New Kinpo Group, Cal-Comp Electronics, Huawei, Panasonic and Western Digital did not respond.

Toshiba, Lexmark and Sharp responded that they did not have sourcing relationships with Cal-Comp in Thailand during the report's documentation period. Hitachi said while it did not source directly from Cal-Comp, it does purchase electronic devices from companies listed in the report and has recently translated its procurement guidelines into Thai. All responses are included below.

HP, Konica Minolta, and Seagate said they were investigating and working with Cal-Comp to improve the situation. Ricoh said it will work with its suppliers in Thailand to protect human rights in its supply chain and started RBA-based supplier audits in 2018. Their responses are also included below.

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Company response
8 March 2019

Toshiba's response

Author: Toshiba

Thank you for your contact to Toshiba and the opportunity for us to respond to your inquiry regarding human rights violations at Cal-Comp Electronics (Thailand) Public Company Limited. We have checked our procurement activity over the past year and within the range of our survey we confirm that Toshiba Group does not have any business relationships with Cal-Comp Electronics (Thailand). 

Download the full document here

Company response
7 March 2019

HP's response

Author: HP

HP’s standards of business conduct, extending to business and supply chain partners, require strict compliance with all applicable laws and social and environmental responsibility standards. HP regularly monitors the performance of its suppliers to review their compliance to HP’s expectations. HPconducted multiple assessments at NKG and is working to address concerns and drive improvement. We are working on the ground with Cal-Comp/NKG, who has since made notable improvements including returning workers their personal documentation, directly hiring contract workers and reimbursing workers for placement fees. Cal-Comp/NKG have improved their communication tools so that workers have a clearer understanding of payroll, recruitment and benefits during their employment. Contracts and communication throughout the facility are in workers’ native languages. HP is aware of the most recent Electronics Watch report and we are working with industry peers and a third-party audit firm to carry out a specialized assessment that looks further into the allegations highlighted in their report.

 

Company response
4 March 2019

Seagate Technology's response

Author: Seagate Technology

We have been working with the Calcomp, the Responsible Business Alliance (RBA), and the other Brands that source from the Calcomp facility in addressing the concerns raised in the Electronics Watch report. Seagate remain committed to implementing standards which eliminate conditions contributing to forced labor. Our work with the manufacturing facility related to this report has shown significant progress in reducing these conditions including the return of personal identity documents, improved working conditions, the presence of employment contracts and direct employment for foreign workers. There has also been progress in identifying and repaying costs and fees charged to workers during their recruitment and repatriation. These efforts are complex and require input and collaboration across multiple industries and stakeholders to move towards recruitment models in which workers are no longer charged fees. In an effort to be thorough in our remediation activities at these sites, we are continuing our investigation, including the application of new investigation techniques through the RBA assurance programs, to ensure the RBA standards are applied and workers are protected and treated with dignity throughout their recruitment and employment journey. This investigation is on-going and we will continue to engage with Calcomp towards a positive outcome.

I would also like to highlight that Seagate only sources from one of the two facilities listed in the report. 

 

 

Article
21 February 2019

Thailand: NGOs report attempts to detect, remedy & prevent excessive recruitment fees & related forced labour risk have yet to prove effective

Author: Electronics Watch

"Call to Industry to Prevent Forced Labour Risks", 21 February 2019

Electronics Watch and our monitoring partner, the Migrant Worker Rights Network (MWRN), have for over two years been documenting excessive recruitment-related fees and expenses that migrant workers from Myanmar pay to get a job at two sites of Cal-Comp Electronics (Thailand). While working conditions have improved in some respects following buyer intervention, industry attempts to detect, remedy and prevent excessive recruitment fees and related forced labour risk have not yet been effective.

Electronics Watch and MWRN therefore call for Cal-Comp to urgently:

  • Fully reimburse all migrant workers who have paid illegal and excessive recruitment fees

  • Prevent forced labour risks through zero-cost recruitment in accordance with the widely endorsed Employer Pays Principle. Cal-Comp should itself pay migrant workers' total recruitment-related service fees and expenses in advance and ensure recruitment agents do not themselves charge workers fees...

Read the full statement, the remedy proposal, and the Cal-Comp report

Read the full post here