Global Aquaculture Alliance certification fails to protect migrant workers.
Submitted by International Labor Rights Forum
Longtime Walmart shrimp supplier, certified by the Global Aquaculture Alliance, engaged in serious violations of Thai law and international human rights standards, according to a new briefing paper released today by Warehouse Workers United (WWU) and the International Labor Rights Forum (ILRF).
The brief, titled The Walmart Effect: Child and Worker Rights Violations at Narong Seafood, documents a number of serious violations of Thai law and international human rights standards at Narong Seafood, a model shrimp processing company and longtime supplier to Walmart. Violations at Narong’s principle shrimp processing facility in Samutsakorn, Thailand include utilizing underage workers, nonpayment of wages, charging workers excessive fees for work permits, and an ineffective auditing regime.
Workers interviewed at Narong reported that until the factory began to experience a slowdown in production due to diseased shrimp, roughly 20 underage workers were employed at the factory. According to interviewees, most underage workers reported to work during the night shift along with 100 to 200 undocumented migrant workers employed at the factory. Interviewees also reported that during audits managers instructed underage workers who work during the day not to come to work.
In recent years, problems in Thailand’s shrimp processing industry have received considerable international attention. In response Walmart, the largest retailer of shrimp in the United States, established a partnership with the Global Aquaculture Alliance (GAA), an industry trade group, to create the Best Aquaculture Practices standards (BAP) to certify that its shrimp suppliers adhere to environmental and social certification standards. Although BAP standards primarily focus on food quality and environmental issues, its standards do contain language on the treatment of workers. BAP standards for treatment of workers include specific language concerning minimum wage, use of underage workers, forced labor, and human trafficking.
“The case of Narong seafood casts serious doubt on the effectiveness of the auditing programs of the Global Aquaculture Alliance and Walmart,” said Judy Gearhart, executive director of the International Labor Rights Forum. “If workers are not empowered to address violations, if factory owners can evade detection with impunity, if audits are announced and never occur at night how can we trust that this system can protect workers, consumer health or environmental sustainability.
The briefing paper calls on Walmart to begin working with labor and human rights activists in Thailand to ensure the rights of migrant workers who produce shrimp for Walmart are respected.
International Labor Rights Forum is an advocacy organization dedicated to achieving just and humane treatment for workers worldwide.
Warehouse Workers United is an organization committed to improving the quality of life and jobs for warehouse workers in Southern California’s Inland Empire. WWU engages with workers around the world who work in the supply chains of large global retailers.
Millions of workers around the world toil under inhumane working conditions. In a globalized economy, corporations from developed countries produce consumer goods ranging from coffee to cellphones in poor developing countries, where they can take advantage of cheap labor and lack of environmental or community protections. Workers, including child workers, must toil extremely long hours for wages that are barely subsistence wages, and often under unsanitary and unsafe conditions. In many countries there is little or no labor law enforcement, and many workers are prevented from joining organizations to advance their interests. Alarmingly, an estimated 211 million children between the ages of 5 and 14 are compelled to work around the world. These children produce rubber, cotton, coffee and work in mines to produce goods that are traded to the United States and other developed countries. Unable to go to school, these children face little hope of escaping poverty in their future. Advocacy for these workers is essential to ensuring their protection, strengthening their voice, and ending abuses that violate their rights and dignity. ILRF is an advocacy organization dedicated to achieving just and humane treatment for workers worldwide. ILRF serves a unique role among human rights organizations as advocates for and with working poor around the world. We believe that all workers have the right to a safe working environment where they are treated with dignity and respect, and where they can organize freely to defend and promote their rights and interests. We are committed to ending the problems of child labor, forced labor, and other abusive practices. We promote enforcement of labor rights internationally through public education and mobilization, research, litigation, legislation, and collaboration with labor, government and business groups.
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