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.