Suppliers for Tobacco Company Philip Morris Used Child Labour
The world's largest non-government cigarette seller said that it took immediate action following the Human Rights Watch report based on interviews with 68 farm workers in 2009 and early 2010. The report, released Wednesday, raised serious concerns over child labour and conditions of migrant workers on tobacco farms in its supply chain.
According to the report by the international human-rights group, farmers took away workers' passports, didn't pay them regular wages, and forced them to work long hours without clean drinking water or other sanitary facilities. Human Rights Watch also said it documented cases of children as young as 10 working on the farms.
"Many of these tobacco workers adults and children alike came to Kazakhstan and found themselves in virtual bondage," said Jane Buchanan, a senior researcher with the group, said in a news release.
Ms Buchanan said Kazakhstan's government needs to do more to protect workers and Philip Morris International has to play a key role in preventing abuses in its supply chain.
Philip Morris International buys about 600,000 tons of tobacco leaf from suppliers and farmers in more than 30 countries annually.
"No one should work in unsafe or unlawful conditions," the company said in a statement.
The seller of Marlboro and other brands overseas said it has strengthened contracts with farmers to prohibit certain labour practices and set standards for workers. It also said it is going to use third-party monitoring of farms.
Philip Morris International, with offices in New York and Lausanne, Switzerland, was spun off from Richmond, Va.-based Altria Group Inc., the seller of Marlboro and other Philip Morris brands in the US, in March 2008.