Know Your Supplier (Continued): “The Walmart Effect: Child and Worker Rights Violations at Narong Seafood, Thailand’s Model Shrimp Processing Factory”

Narong Seafood Company Limited is a large seafood exporter in Thailand.  Bills of lading information indicate that Narong supplies the U.S. market with substantial volumes of shrimp, often packaged in familiar retail brands, including Walmart.  For the moment, the company’s website (http://www.narongseafood.co.th/) opens on a page shouting “NARONG SEAFOOD AGAINST ANY FORM OF CHILD LABOUR, FORCED LABOUR AND HUMAN TRAFFICKING.”  The same message appears on Narong’s home page (http://www.narongseafood.co.th/home.html) along with the certification seal of the Global Aquaculture Alliance.

 

In February and March of this year, the International Labour Rights Forum (ILRF) and Warehouse Workers United (WWU) went to Narong’s main factory in Samut-sakorn.  The results of their findings were published yesterday in a short briefing paper titled “The Walmart Effect: Child and Worker Rights Violations at Narong Seafood, Thailand’s Model Shrimp Processing Factory.”

 

The findings of the briefing paper illustrate serious deficiencies in the auditing systems employed by both Walmart and the Global Aquaculture Alliance.  The ILRF and the WWU found evidence of the use of underage workers and nonpayment of wages.  The groups also found that workers were charged excessive fees for obtaining work permits which, in some circumstances, were fraudulent.   The paper’s findings led Judy Gearhart, the ILRF’s executive director, to question industry efforts to eliminate labor abuses from the supply chain:

 

 “The case of Narong seafood casts serious doubt on the effectiveness of the auditing programs of the Global Aquaculture Alliance and Walmart.  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 ILRF and WWU ask Walmart not to drop Narong as a supplier:  “Dismissing Narong as a supplier would hurt workers at the facility and do little to address wider problems in the industry.”  Instead, the groups ask that Walmart “work with labor and human rights activists in Thailand to ensure the rights of the workers who produce shrimp for Walmart in Thailand are respected.”

 

The same request can be made of all of the importers, distributors, and retailers that trade in Narong’s shrimp.  Many of these well-known companies tout the “sustainability” of the shrimp sold under their labels and emphasize their commitment to social justice, as evidenced by the Global Aquaculture Alliance’s Best Aquaculture Practices.  If the value of the GAA’s certification can be undermined simply by talking to a company’s workers in a setting not controlled by management – something that you would assume an auditor would do – then that certification isn’t worth very much.  And neither are claims that the shrimp they’re selling to consumers is sustainable. I strongly urge you to click on the links below and take some time to read what is contained in them.

As the title of this series suggests, know your supplier.

John Williams

Executive Director

 

Read the International Labour Rights Forum’s and Warehouse Workers United’s “The Walmart Effect: Child and Worker Rights Violations at Narong Seafood, Thailand’s Model Shrimp Processing Factory.”:

http://laborrights.org/sites/default/files/publications-and-resources/Narong%20Shrimp%20Report_0.pdf 

Read a short summary of the briefing paper from the International Labour Rights Forum: http://laborrights.org/stop-child-forced-labor/resources/the-walmart-effect-child-and-worker-rights-violations-at-narong-se 

Read the International Labour Rights Forum’s press release on the briefing paper: http://laborrights.org/stop-child-forced-labor/news/report-finds-child-labor-and-worker-rights%E2%80%99-violations-at-certified-wal 

Learn more about the International Labor Rights Forum:

http://laborrights.org/  

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