Tuesday, May 10, 2011 -
International tobacco giant Philip Morris vowed on Monday to continue improving workers’ conditions on tobacco farms in Kazakhstan and elsewhere, months after Human Rights Watch (HRW) slammed the company for violating workers’ rights.
Kazakhstan has 294 farms which grow tobacco leaves for the corporation.
HRW praised the company on Monday for following up on the organization’s 2010 report and expressing its commitment to maintaining the rights of migrant farm workers.
“It’s great that Philip Morris International recognizes the importance of monitoring for real change on the ground, and we strongly encourage the use of completely independent third-party monitors for maximum credibility and transparency,” Jane Buchanan, senior Europe and Central Asia researcher for HRW, said in the HRW press release on Monday.
The corporate giant enlisted an independent non-governmental organization (NGO), Verité, to investigate Kazakh tobacco farms and farm workers for labor abuses. The NGO conducted research on 65 Kazakh farms and interviewed over 100 migrant workers for its report.
In a report released on May 2, Verite praised Philip Morris International (PMI) for increasing measures to improve migrant workers’ conditions but said that more needs to be done. Increased monitoring of the farms to ensure children younger than 18 are not forced to work on the farms, the NGO said, as well as creating a method for farmers to communicate with the company to raise issues or complaints.
The company can also do more to assist migrant workers with working permits to avoid deportation, the Verité report said in its recommendations to the company.