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June 11, 2013
Labor Problems—GAA Responds
Warehouse Workers United (WWU) and the International Labor Rights Forum (ILRF) have 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.
Violations at Narong’s principal facility in Samutsakron, 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.
“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, ILRF director. “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 Global Aquaculture Alliance Responds
The Global Aquaculture Alliance takes very seriously the accusations of the labor abuses cited by Warehouse Workers United and the International Labor Rights Forum and is determining a corrective course of action to ensure that the shrimp processing plant cited in the brief is adhering to Thai labor laws and the GAA’s Best Aquaculture Practices (BAP) standards.
The BAP management team is following up with Narong Seafood, which will be required to respond to all accusations in the report. A corrective course of action will include ensuring that the facility was audited effectively.
GAA is committed to promoting social responsibility through its BAP certification program. Processing plants and farms certified against the BAP standards must ensure a safe, healthy working environment. The BAP standards also address wages and other terms of employment and the use of child and forced labor. In total, the BAP processing plant standards contain 36 clauses relating to worker safety and employee relations. The BAP program is based on independent audits evaluating compliance with the BAP standards.
BAP Standards Coordinator Dan Lee said, “These are serious allegations that need to be investigated. Through its BAP program, GAA takes its role in promoting fair labor conditions very seriously, so any report of abuse at a BAP-certified facility is a matter of great concern. The report calls on major players like Walmart to help drive up labor standards in the global seafood industry, and the BAP program provides an important tool for this job. Some seafood certification programs side step the thorny issue of labor conditions. But, to its credit, GAA has adopted a comprehensive approach that attaches great importance to social issues.”
Sources: 1. SeafoodSource.com. Editor, Sean Murphy (firstname.lastname@example.org). Walmart Shrimp Supplier Accused of Labor Abuse. June 7, 2013. 2. The Global Aquaculture Alliance. GAA Responds to Labor Abuse Accusations at Thai Facility. June 2013.
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