By SeafoodSource staff
Published on Wednesday, September 25, 2013
After the International Labor Organization (ILO) announced a new initiative to improve labor conditions in the Thai fishing industry, a nonprofit labor rights group is urging the ILO to push for improvements in industry monitoring.
The International Labor Rights Forum (ILRF) released a report this summer, together with Warehouse Workers United, titled “The Walmart Effect: Child and Worker Rights Violations at Narong Seafood.” Today, in a statement, ILRF noted that Walmart is partly responsible for promoting improper labor practices.
“Walmart is using its outsized footprint on global supply chains to exploit these workers,” said Abby Mills, ILRF director of campaigns. “It is the largest buyer of imported, farm-raised shrimp in the United States, the largest market for Thai exporters, and can play producers off each other to get lower prices. That is Walmart’s goal, and it unfortunately comes at a great human cost.”
The report alleges serious labor violations at Narong Seafood, a Thai shrimp processing company that supplies the American retail giant. Among the allegations, the report charges Narong employed underaged workers, didn’t pay wages, charged excessive fees for work permits and had “an ineffective auditing regime.”
Last week, the ILO announced a new good labor practice program which it described as “a major labor protection initiative” to set industry standards in Thailand. The program has the backing of government and industry leaders.
The ILRF reported released this summer offered a number of recommendations, including reforms to Thailand’s labor laws, giving more of a voice to migrant workers and establishment of independent monitoring processes.
“ILRF welcomes serious efforts to protect exploited shrimp workers and hopes the ILO will positively affect working conditions in the industry,” ILRF said in a statement. “For this effort to be successful, however, our research and past experience demonstrate that only legally-binding efforts with third-party inspection and an equal role for workers’ organizations will be successful.”