New AP story finds labor issues persist in Thai seafood industry
A new Associated Press story explores progress made in the past year in reforming abusive labor practices in the shrimp processing sector in Thailand.
The article, “Promises unmet as Thailand tries to reform shrimp industry,” published 22 September, investigates the the difficulties faced by the industry in attempting to implement reforms. The article follows up on a March 2015 AP investigation titled “Seafood from Slaves,” which detailed the use of human trafficking, forced labor and violence against workers in the Thai seafood industry.
“The Associated Press…found that while some Thai companies that export shrimp to the U.S. have given formerly entrapped workers better jobs in-house, others still use middlemen who employ laborers in remote, guarded warehouses,” the AP reported in its new article. “That's despite industry vows to end outside shrimp processing by the end of last year after human trafficking was exposed in the sheds.”
The owners of these sheds still disregard environmental, labor or safety laws, with 75 percent of the 109 sheds inspected so far this year receiving citations for violations and 24 were ordered to close, the AP reported.
Thai Union responded to the article with a press release outlining the changes the company has made since the original AP story broke last year.
“We no longer use any suppliers for shrimp pre-processing,” Thai Union said. “Instead, since January 2016, we have employed over 1,200 people previously working in pre-processing. Now, they all benefit from fair salaries, regular working hours with time off, voluntary and limited overtime, and the opportunity to earn bonuses. Reading the independent feedback they shared with AP, we are encouraged that our efforts have made a difference in their lives.”
The new AP article found that at least one company using middlemen for shrimp processing carried the Global Aquaculture Alliance’s Best Aquaculture Practices certification. The BAP certification requires that “peeling and heading of shrimp must occur in facilities owned by and completely controlled by” the processing plants themselves.
GAA President George Chamberlain said his organization was “gravely concerned” and was investigating.
“Clearly, this is a difficult long-term issue, but we take it very seriously, and we are working hard on it,” Chamberlain told the AP.
Thai Union, in its press release, acknowledged problems still exist within the Thai seafood industry, which exports about USD 7 billion (EUR 6.2 billion) worth of products annually.
“We recognize that more still needs to be done,” Thai Union said. “For example, Thai Union is making significant efforts in traceability processes that enable us to prove that our seafood is legally and safely produced, and that safe labor conditions are met throughout the supply chain. This is vital to building trust with our consumers. We will continue our work with government, stakeholders and the wider seafood industry, working together to drive change in the shrimp supply chain and ensure safe and legal labor for all workers.”