The 14 workers are seeking compensation of Bt46 million ($1.3m) from Betagro and a Lopburi Province poultry farm – the migrants’ former employer – for what they have claimed was abuse akin to slavery.
The lawsuit was filed by the migrant workers at a labour court in Saraburi Province, Bangkok, on Friday 2 September. All 14 former employees claimed to have been overworked and underpaid at a chicken farm that supplied Betagro with livestock.
Migrant Worker Rights Network (MWRN) helped the 14 former staff assemble a case against Betagro. And the opening of the legal proceedings comes as Thailand faces a global wave of criticism over the alleged mistreatment of migrant workers in the food processing industry, particularly the poultry sector.
Pressure on bad eggs
Alongside the lawsuit, a petition with more than 45,000 signatures from international human rights’ activists, gathered by a Walk Free campaign, has been submitted to the Thai Broiler Processing Exporters Association.
The petition has called for the chicken body to exert pressure on Betagro to ensure the business coughs up compensation to the 14 workers from Myanmar, also known as Burma. The petition also stresses the need for Betagro to carry out an investigation on labour conditions across its supply chain to ensure that any abuse and mistreatment of staff is entirely stamped out.
The Thai Broiler Processing Exporters Association has responded to criticism of the sector and recently launched a government-backed intuitive to radically improve standards in the entire chicken sector.
In the last few years, big seafood players, like Thai Union, have improved workplace conditions after evidence of mistreatment and abuse. Attention has recently turned to Thailand’s chicken processing sector, now at the centre of abuse claims.
Betagro was unavailable to provide comment. The trial continues.