John West owner MW Brands is ramping up its CSR commitments by providing new accommodation for 1,400 of its Seychelles workers and raising pay by at least 5%.

MW Brands and the Seychelles government own 60% and 40%, respectively, of Indian Ocean Tuna - a huge tuna canning operation on the largest Seychelles island, Mahé.

The government will build an “ex-pat village” for foreign workers - who make up 60% of MW Brands’ Seychelles workforce - on a site adjacent to the IOT factory. IOT will rent the land and buildings.

Currently, IOT houses the workers in rented accommodation across the island, but standards vary and IOT has to chase private landlords to carry out maintenance. The geographical spread of the workers also leads to logistical difficulties - for example, when there’s a water shortage, IOT has to deliver to each house.

IOT had a responsibility to house workers and their living conditions were hugely important to the company, said John West MD Paul Reenan. “If we’re really serious about leading on people, that’s the sort of thing we need to do.” IOT workers largely come from India, Kenya, Madagascar, Sri Lanka, the Philippines and Thailand.

The project is likely to cost between €7m to €9m. The accommodation will comprise bedrooms, a communal area and a food serving area, and it will be a 15-minute walk from the factory. The first block will be completed next year.

On 1 January, 2,100 workers at the IOT factory received a pay rise of between 5% and 24%. “We want to minimise the risk of good people leaving,” said Anthony Lazazzara, MW Brands group plants director. He added there would be no direct impact on the price of the company’s tuna as savings would be made in other areas of the business.