Leigh Day, the UK-based legal firm, specializing in human rights, has sent a pre-action letter to the London headquarters of the tobacco giant British American Tobacco (BAT) announcing its intention to lodge a claim case at the High Court in London in 2019 if no satisfactory response to its letter is received. The firm is accusing BAT of buying tobacco from Malawi that has actually been grown from the labors of more than 350 children, who the firm is now representing in this case, and the youngest of whom are only just over 3 years of age. Leigh Day decided to launch the claims case after the 2018 publication of a shocking inquiry led by the Guardian newspaper (UK daily publication). The firm calculates that a total of some 15,000 claimants could join together in this landmark case that is being closely monitored by the larger companies and that has already convinced the USA to suspend tobacco imports from Malawi. However BAT did take third place in the FTSE 100 Global Governance Index rankings that classes the big companies in terms of the progress they have made in fighting modern slavery. Simon Cleverly, group head of corporate affairs at BAT stated, “BAT takes the issue of child labour extremely seriously and strongly agrees that children must never be exploited, exposed to danger, or denied an education.” Lawyers nonetheless hold that in Malawi families are being so poorly paid that they have no other choice than to make their children harvest the leaves. Noteworthy is the fact that on several occasions the ILO has denounced the exploitation of children in tobacco farming.
Great Britain: legal firm threatens damages against tobacco giant British American Tobacco
Planet Labor, 5 November 2019, n°11466 - www.planetlabor.com