The Walmart Effect: Child and Worker Rights Violations at Narong Seafood, Thailand’s Model Shrimp Processing Factory.

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Date of publication: June 6, 2013

Source: Briefing Paper

Author: International Labor Rights Forum & Warehouse Workers United

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Each year Thailand’s shrimp industry exports hundreds of thousands of tons of shrimp, (worth roughly USD 1.5 billion) to the United States(1), its largest export market. The shrimp are raised on farms, peeled, cooked, processed and packaged by a low‐paid workforce that is made up almost entirely of migrant workers from Burma, Cambodia and Laos. Many of these workers are trafficked into the country by labor brokers and are often subjected to labor exploitation and debt bondage. Horrible working conditions, including under and non‐payment of wages, violations of minimum wage laws, long overtime hours, dangerous and unsanitary working conditions and the systematic denial of freedom of association and collectivve bargaining rights are common. Since Thailand has not ratified core ILO conventions, migrant workers have no legal right to freedom of association. Worse still, instances of forced and child labor are known to be widespread in the industry.

Although some observers argue that conditions in the large shrimp processing factories have improved, this briefing paper indicates inhumane working conditions and human rights violations continue to be a problem at even the most reputable factories. More specifically, this brief documents a number of serious violations of Thai law and international human rights standards at Narong Seafood, a model company and longtime supplier to Walmart. Violations at Narong’s principle shrimp processing facility in Samutsakorn, Thailand include utlizing underage workers, nonpayment of wages, charging workers excessive fees for work permits, and an ineffective auditing regime.