Bad news about trade

One of the weaknesses of the fair trade movement is that it is run by mostly very nice people. Very nice people, as my mum would say, do not go around saying bad things about other people! The problem we then face in fair trade is justifying going to so much time and expense putting these rules together and applying them when things are fairly good out there in the world? Oh that it would be the case!

The following stories will help you to see that the world of trade is the home of many abuses. Bringing this news to you is far from something that we find pleasurable but we also feel it is necessary.

This page is here to help you see what is mostly not printed in the papers. It is here to:-

We will feature a snippet of the story with the source webpage link. This link will eventually not work but the snippet will remain as an introduction.

Seafood Trade October 2016

Our love of cheap seafood is tainted by slavery: how can it be fixed?

A rusting, unusable boat, abandoned at sea. Its crew left to fend for themselves 70 nautical miles off the coast of Guinea, west Africa, without radio or safety equipment, abandoned by the boat’s operator.

This is just one shocking story of a global fishing industry that is rife with incidents of abuse, murder and slavery. Human rights exploitation in the seafood sector is a tragedy that has been documented for a decade.

The abandoned boat story dates back to 2006; while a UN survey (pdf) dating back to 2009 found that nearly two-thirds of migrants aboard Thai fishing boats reported seeing a fellow worker murdered. In a few, fortunate cases, people have been rescued, such as the Burmese crewmen found enslaved in cages in Indonesia last year.


Bangladesh October 2016

Deadly Bangladesh blaze shows up safety gaps three years after factory collapse

DHAKA (Reuters) - Bangladesh's safety inspectors twice extended an operating license at a food and cigarette packaging plant in the capital Dhaka without making physical checks.

That breach of rules is now being investigated by the government after a fire at the Tampaco Foils factory killed at least 39 people last month.

The cause of the Sept. 10 blaze, the country's worst industrial accident since the 2013 Rana Plaza tragedy in which more than 1,100 mostly garment workers died, is unknown. The plant's owner, a former member of parliament, has gone missing.

Flammable materials stored on the factory floor, a gas leak, excessive use of gas and poorly positioned boilers are all being looked at as possible reasons.


DR Congo September 2016


Tracing the path from deadly hand-dug mines in Congo to consumers’ phones and laptops

The sun was rising over one of the richest mineral deposits on Earth, in one of the poorest countries, as Sidiki Mayamba got ready for work.

Mayamba is a cobalt miner. And the red-dirt savanna stretching outside his door contains such an astonishing wealth of cobalt and other minerals that a geologist once described it as a “scandale geologique.”

This remote landscape in southern Africa lies at the heart of the world’s mad scramble for cheap cobalt, a mineral essential to the rechargeable lithium-ion batteries that power smartphones, laptops and electric vehicles made by companies such as Apple, Samsung and major automakers.

But Mayamba, 35, knew nothing about his role in this sprawling global supply chain. He grabbed his metal shovel and broken-headed hammer from a corner of the room he shares with his wife and child. He pulled on a dust-stained jacket. A proud man, he likes to wear a button-down shirt even to mine. And he planned to mine by hand all day and through the night. He would nap in the underground tunnels. No industrial tools. Not even a hard hat. The risk of a cave-in is constant.

2013 Article just discovered, Assam, India

When the trafficker came knocking on the door of Elaina Kujar's hut on a tea plantation at the north-eastern end of Assam, she had just got back from school. Elaina was 14 and wanted to be a nurse. Instead, she was about to lose four years of her life as a child slave.

She sits on a low chair inside the hut, playing with her long dark hair as she recalls how her owner would sit next to her watching porn in the living room of his Delhi house, while she waited to sleep on the floor. "Then he raped me," she says, looking down at her hands, then out of the door. Outside, the monsoon rain is falling on the tin roof and against the mud-rendered bamboo strip walls, on which her parents have pinned a church calendar bearing the slogan The Lord is Good to All.

Elaina was in that Delhi house for one reason: her parents, who picked the world-famous Assam tea on an estate in Lakhimpur district, were paid so little they could not afford to keep her. There are thousands like her, taken to Delhi from the tea plantations in the north-east Indian state by a trafficker, sold to an agent for as little as £45, sold on again to an employer for up to £650, then kept as slaves, raped, abused. It is a 21st-century slave trade. There are thought to be 100,000 girls as young as 12 under lock and key in Delhi alone: others are sold on to the Middle East and some are even thought to have reached the UK.

Every tea plantation pays the same wages. Every leaf of every box of Assam tea sold by Tetley and Lipton and Twinings and the supermarket own brands – Asda, Waitrose, Tesco, Sainsbury's and the rest – is picked by workers who earn a basic 12p an hour.

July 15’ India About 12,000 farmers killed themselves in the country in 2014.

The National Crime Records Bureau informed Sunday that 5,650 farmers had committed suicide in 2014 – corresponding to an average of 15 every hour. While this sounds shocking, other sources say this is an underestimation. This information comes at a bad time for Prime Minister Narendra Modi, as the Indian Congress will open its new parliamentary session Tuesday that will debate the controversial bill reforming land acquisition. The reform aims at removing from a previous bill voted in 2013 a variety of safeguards preventing forcible acquisition. Today Although the NCRB’s figures appear to show the number of suicides have halved since the same time last year, its methods were not the same. According to the Times of India, the government only took into account the landowners, instead of including all the rural workers. The Times writes that when these are included, the real figure shoots up to 12,360 suicides over the past year, almost 600 more than the previous year. In the most agrarian state in the country, Maharashtra, the record of suicides skyrocketed. The Hindu reports that over 10,000 were registered between 2012 and 2014. In this state, suicides do not only affect agriculture, but all sectors, with a total of 16,300 cases of people taking their own lives in 2014 alone, of 131,000 nationwide.

July 15'  Cambodian Garment Factory Workers Demonstrate for Subsidies

At least 500 workers from three garment factories in Cambodia demonstrated on Tuesday outside the Labor Ministry in the capital Phnom Penh, demanding that government officials intervene in their quest for better working conditions and food and transportation subsidies.

The workers from two factories owned by the company Akeentex in Phnom Penh and one owned by Sixplus in southern Cambodia’s Kandal province marched through the streets until they reached the ministry building, where they submitted petitions asking government officials to intervene because their factories refused to meet their demands for subsidies about a week ago.


July 13 China’s migrant worker crisis and the children who are left behind

China was recently rocked by the suicides of four siblings, aged five to 13, in Cizhu Village, Bijie city, Guizhou province. The “left-behind” siblings lived alone in a run-down house, and aside from occasional wire transfers of money from their father and a minimum living allowance from the local government, the children were left without care.

State media said the mother, Ren Xifen, left in 2014 following a “long and bitter dispute” with the father, Zhang Fangqi, who abandoned the children for work in March 2015.

Their deaths sparked public outrage across China over the government’s failure to address the problems of rural poverty and inadequate provision of social services. The incident highlighted not only the plight of China’s “left-behind” children, but also the obstacles the government faces in addressing migrant workers’ issues – and the risks of failing to do so.

According to government data released in May, there are 61m left-behind children in China, or about 37.7% of the children in rural China and 21.9% of children in the country. While their parents have migrated to cities to find work, they are usually left under the care of their grandparents or other relatives but an estimated 3.4% live alone.


July 15' China firm plans to punish unplanned pregnancies

A Chinese firm reportedly plans to ask its staff to seek approval before they get pregnant, provoking scorn in the state-run press and on social media.

Workers at a finance firm in Henan province were said to have been told they must apply for a "place on the birth-planning schedule" - and only if they had been employed for over a year.

Those who became pregnant without approval may be penalised.

The plan has been heavily criticised on social networks and in the media.

A commentator in the state-run China Youth Daily said the company regarded its workers as "tools on the production line" rather than human beings, the AFP news agency reports.

Employees are also unhappy, with one complaining that it was impossible to guarantee that a pregnancy would follow the schedule set by the company.


July 15 Companies must act to stamp out child labour in Ghanaian gold mining – Human Rights Watch  BY Marino Donati

Refiners using gold from Ghana may be benefitting from hazardous child labour in unlicensed mines, according to a human rights organisation.

A report by Human Rights Watch said some international refiners lacked control over their supply chains and called on them to take immediate steps to eliminate the use of child labour.

The report, “Precious Metal, Cheap Labor: Child Labor and Corporate Responsibility in Ghana’s Artisanal Gold Mines”, said thousands of children work in Ghana’s artisanal and small-scale gold mines in hazardous conditions, despite both Ghanaian and international law prohibiting the practice. Most of the children are aged between 15 and 17, but younger children also work in mining.

Children have been injured and killed in mine collapses, and suffered from pain and respiratory problems caused by the work. They also risk brain damage and other life-long disabilities from mercury poisoning, the report claims.

Human Rights Watch said artisanal and small-scale gold mining is poorly regulated in Ghana, and many local gold traders have done little to determine whether the gold they buy is produced with child labour. It called on companies to have clear policies against child labour, to require regular monitoring with unannounced inspections, full chain-of-custody documentation, and ensure all contracts with suppliers include specific language prohibiting child labour.


June 15 'Cold-case union killings to be probed    Meas Sokchea and Shaun Turton

The government has formed a special inter-ministerial commission to investigate the murders of three union leaders, including the slaying of former Free Trade Union (FTU) president Chea Vichea, whose brother and successor was yesterday among voices cynical of the move.

The directive, signed by Prime Minister Hun Sen on June 10 and obtained yesterday, assigns seven high-ranking officials from seven different ministries to investigate the deaths of Vichea, assassinated in January 2004, as well as FTU factory presidents Ros Sovannareth and Hy Vuthy, shot dead in May 2004 and February 2007, respectively.

Authorities have long faced local and international pressure to bring the perpetrators to justice for the slayings, which have been linked to the trio’s union activities.

Opposition-aligned Vichea, the high-profile victim who helped establish the FTU with now-opposition leader Sam Rainsy, was gunned down in broad daylight by two men near Phnom Penh’s Wat Langka pagoda.

National Police Commissioner General Neth Savoeun and military police Commander Sao Sokha – both ranking police officials at the time of the murders – have been tapped for the team, which, according to the document, will be led by a yet-to-be-named secretary of state from the Interior Ministry.

August 14 Qatar

 British human rights investigators disappear in Qatar, after being followed by plain clothes police


Two British human rights workers investigating the plight of migrant labourers constructing facilities for Qatar’s 2022 World Cup have disappeared and are feared to be held incommunicado by the Gulf state’s security forces.

Krishna Upadhyaya and Ghimire Gundev vanished on Sunday afternoon after sending texts to colleagues saying they were being followed by plain clothes police officers and feared they arrest as they tried to leave Qatar on flights that day.


The two men, who are of Nepalese extraction and both carry British passports, had been in the Qatari capital Doha to record interviews with Nepali labourers and investigate conditions in accommodation camps. They were working in cooperation with Nepalese diplomats in the city.


Qatar has been strongly criticised for the working conditions of its 1.4m migrant labourers as it races to spend £123bn on new infrastructure ahead of the 2022 World Cup. More than 400 Nepalese, the vast majority of them in Qatar to work on construction projects, died in the Gulf state between January 2012 and this May - a death rate of one worker per day. Qatar has insisted that none of the deaths occurred on World Cup sites.


August 14 India

60 trafficked Assam girls brought home from Mumbai factory

GUWAHATI: Fatema (name changed), along with some other girls from Assam's Sonitpur district, went to Mumbai seven months ago in search of jobs. A man, whom they addressed as 'mamu' (uncle), took them to Taloja in Navi Mumbai where they started working in a fish packaging factory, not realizing that they have fallen prey to a human trafficking racket.


The girls' nightmare came to an end a few weeks ago as Maharastra Police, along with the labour department and Mumbai-based NGO My Home India, rescued them from the factory. Altogether 60 minors from Assam were rescued from the factory.


"We worked from 9 am to 6pm. We used to clean fish and pack them for export. Some of us are suffering from skin problems now," said Fatema at Guwahati railway station.



Tue, 26 August 2014  CAMBODIA

Striking workers face dismissal from factory

Workers at a Kampong Chhnang garment factory who remain on strike today will be fired, management said yesterday, as strikers delivered a petition to the Labour Ministry.


The roughly 100 employees of Jiun Ye Garment factory who made the trip to Phnom Penh arrived on trucks and tuk-tuks. The action came in spite of a court order on Wednesday that workers, who have been on strike for about three weeks, return within 48 hours.


“We cannot wait for our employer to negotiate with us anymore,” said Yin Chinreoun, a representative of the workers, who are seeking several concessions including a $15-per-month attendance bonus.


But Jiun Ye administrative manager Nget Resmey said factory officials have sat down with an employee representative three times, only to have the employee side walk out.


Resmey added that the Arbitration Council would drop Jiun Ye employees’ case if they do not attend work today.



August 14 Bangladesh

Factory closed over workers unrest

Additional police have been deployed in front of the factory to avoid any untoward situations, says Mostafizur

Authorities of a ready-made garment factory in Ashulia have declared the factory closed for an indefinite period on Tuesday amid workers protest.

Workers said some 800 workers of Sonia Fine Knit's linking and sewing sections have been protesting to press their four-point demands including payment of Eid bonus and A-grade salary.

They said they went back to their houses when the factory authority declared holiday for the day following their work abstention on Monday.

They found the notice about the indefinite closure of the factor when they went to the factory to join their work on Tuesday morning.

Later, police went to the spot and dispersed the crowd when the workers took to the streets after seeing the notice.

Director of Ashulia Industrial Police Mostafizur Rahman said: “The authorities declared the factory closed for an indefinite period amid workers protest.”

He said: “Additional police have been deployed in front of the factory to avoid any untoward situations.”

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August 14 Morocco

Moroccan child labour laws a work in progress

MOROCCO’S children have had a better lot since King Mohammed VI succeeded his father as ruler 15 years ago. More that 88% finish primary school, up from 62% at the end of King Hassan’s reign in 1999. Children’s rights organisations have proliferated and the government often funds their projects.


Rural children have benefited in particular. Better transport and boarding facilities for those from far-flung villages have made schools easier to reach. Since 2008 the education ministry has given satchels with pens and exercise books to millions starting primary school. Modest cash allowances for parents of pupils have helped win over families.


The UN’s children’s organisation, UNICEF, helped to reduce the number of children working in the handicraft sector—an area excluded from a labour law of 2004, which laid out limited working hours, paid holidays and a minimum wage for workers in most sectors. In the mid-2000s the organisation had some success in persuading artisans in Marrakech and Fez not to employ children under 12 and to release older children for at least a few hours schooling each week. The authorities raised the fine.


Still, for all Morocco’s progress, problems persist. Rural families are often unaware, says Human Rights Watch, a New York-based lobby, that all children under 15 must attend school. And this legal requirement, introduced in 2000, is not strictly enforced. The school dropout rate rises steadily between the ages of 11 to 14.


In the cities boys as young as ten can still be found toiling in districts such as in Fez’s Ben Souda where metal parts are stacked high in front of car body shops. Accidents are common. “The employer just takes the child to hospital, pays off the police and that’s the end of the story,” says a worker. Over in the ceramics neighbourhood of Ain Noqbi, a man explains that a child's earnings are necessary to help keep a family afloat since most fathers—the breadwinner in most families—earn just six or seven euros a day.


July 14, Global

Global wildlife decline driving slave labor, organized crime


Global decline of wildlife populations is driving increases in violent conflicts, organized crime and child labor around the world, according to a new policy paper led by UC Berkeley researchers. The authors call for biologists to join forces with experts such as economists, political scientists, criminologists, public health officials and international development specialists to collectively tackle a complex challenge.


The paper, published (Thursday, July 24) in the journal Science, highlights how losses of food and employment from wildlife decline cause increases in human trafficking and other crimes, as well as foster political instability.


"This paper is about recognizing wildlife decline as a source of social conflict rather than a symptom," said lead author Justin Brashares, associate professor of ecology and conservation at UC Berkeley's Department of Environmental Science, Policy and Management. "Billions of people rely directly and indirectly on wild sources of meat for income and sustenance, and this resource is declining. It's not surprising that the loss of this critical piece of human livelihood has huge social consequences. Yet, both conservation and political science have generally overlooked these fundamental connections."

Fishing and the rise of piracy


Fewer animals to hunt and fish demand increasingly greater effort to harvest. Laborers, many of them children, often are sold to fishing boats and forced to work 18- to 20-hour days at sea for years without pay, the authors said.


"Impoverished families are relying upon these resources for their livelihood, so we can't apply economic models that prescribe increases in prices or reduced demand as supplies become scarce," said Brashares. "Instead, as more labor is needed to capture scarce wild animals and fish, hunters and fishers use children as a source of cheap labor. Hundreds of thousands of impoverished families are selling their kids to work in harsh conditions."


July 14, Bolivia

Bolivia legalises child labour

It is depressing to hear that Bolivia has become the first country to legalise child labour, reducing the minimum age of employment from 14 years old to just 10.


The new law contravenes the International Labour Organisation's (ILO) minimum working age protocol and is an abandonment of a child's right to a childhood.


There are some protections included in the law: children between 10 and 12 must be supervised by a parent while they work, under-12s are not permitted to undertake third-party employment, and children must still attend school.


But with about 850,000 child labourers in Bolivia and only 78 inspectors, it will be difficult to uphold these protections. And how will children, exhausted after a day's work, be able to engage in learning? They risk missing out on a proper education, eroding their chances for better paid employment in future. Rather than breaking the cycle of poverty and illiteracy, the new law appears to entrench it.



14-year-old worker found dead at possible Asus supplier in China

A 14-year-old worker has been found dead after working at an electronics factory in China that may make products for Asus, another potential case of underage labor abuse in the country.

Liu Fuzong died on May 21 while employed at a factory in Dongguan, said the city's local human resources office in an email on Thursday. Liu's body had turned cold when discovered by a co-worker in his dorm, and was later pronounced dead at a hospital. Authorities have yet to elaborate on the cause of death.


Locked doors at torched poultry plant show how little has changed for many Chinese workers

BEIJING, China – A fire breaks out in a Chinese factory, and panicked workers discover one exit after another is locked. That describes not only the poultry plant fire that killed 119 people Monday, but a toy-factory blaze that left 87 workers dead 20 years earlier.

The similarities between the two worst factory fires in China’s history suggest that little has changed for industrial workers even as the country has transformed its economy.

The bolted doors, clearly a violation of Chinese law, are emblematic of the often callous approach to worker safety in China that leads to frequent industrial disasters and an annual death toll in the tens of thousands.

SRI LANKA: Tea rich but nutrient poor

COLOMBO, 20 January 2012 (IRIN) - Tea in Sri Lanka is one of the country's biggest cash crops, but families working on tea estates are among the nation's poorest in terms of earnings as well as nutrition, say experts who back regional approaches to tackle nutrition disparity.

One in every five children younger than five is malnourished nationwide and one in six newborns has a low birth weight, one cause of infant deaths, according to a recent study from the Colombo-based Institute of Policy Studies (IPS).

But the situation is worse for children of tea estate workers, with one in three classified as underweight and 40 percent of babies born with too-low weight, IPS noted.

Ramasamy Ramakrishnan, 46, a tea estate worker and father of five, and his wife, who is also a tea harvester, earn US$130 monthly to support a family of seven, including five school-aged children.

"It is difficult. We survive somehow. But I cannot find any other job," he told IRIN.

His family is among the one-and-a-half million people - or some 5 percent of Sri Lanka's 21 million population - who work in the tea sector, according to government estimates.