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July 12, 2013

Thailand

Daniel Gruenberg on Labor Practices

 

On June 6, 2013, Warehouse Workers United (WWU) and the International Labor Rights Forum (ILRF) released a document citing serious violations of Thai law and international human rights standards at Narong Seafood, a shrimp processing company and longtime Walmart shrimp supplier that’s certified by the Global Aquaculture Alliance (GAA).

 

DanieI Gruenberg, an organic shrimp farmer in Thailand, reacted to the above charges on the Shrimp List, a mailing list for the shrimp farming industry:

 

I think it needs to be said that the methods for such accusations made against Thai processors are tainted by those with specific agendas.  It goes without saying that Narong was targeted because its managing director is head of the anti-child labor committee at the Thai Frozen Foods Association.

 

Non-government organizations (NGOs) will go in and pay workers to make complaints about their employers.  Evidence obtained like this is less than objective.

 

I use Narong to process my organic products.  I work daily with its management, and its workers and the staff are always co-operative and helpful.  The company goes to great lengths to make its workers happy.  With over 5,000 workers at the plants, you are bound to have a few disgruntled employees who when offered some cash money to testify against the company are happy to take the cash and run.  I am very happy that the unannounced visit by GAA showed that there were no actual violations at Narong.

 

USA trade protection practices disgust me and make me ashamed to be an American.  It’s just a bunch of lawyers and politicians sucking at the blood of other people’s hard work.

 

Finally, to those that think that employing 17-year-olds is “slave” labor, please don’t use your own cultural context when judging the shrimp processing plants in Asia.  Many of the families in Myanmar, where the workers come from, have no means to keep their kids in school, and they have to leave their homeland and come to Thailand to earn money and survive.  To these workers who normally send a significant portion of their salaries home to support their families, these jobs are a critical step in allowing younger children to finish school.  If you are going to complain about providing, safe, valuable employment to this needy group, start by sending your own money to support these people, don’t kick the rice bowl from under their feet.

 

Part of the problem comes from the fact that even 22-year-old Burmese workers are quite small and they look like they’re 14 years old to typical Western eyes.  Narong keeps official government documentation (passports and government issued ID cards) on their employees.

 

Source: The Shrimp List (a mailing list for shrimp farmers).  Subject: Thai Labor Practices.  July 9, 2013.

 

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