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The True Cost of Shrimp
With Responses from the Media and Shrimp Industry

 

On April 23, 2008, the Solidarity Center (“American Center For International Labor Solidarity”, affiliated with the AFL-CIO) released a 40-page report titled The True Cost of Shrimp.  A strong indictment of the labor practices at shrimp processing plants in Bangladesh and Thailand, it also includes comments (below) on the Global Aquaculture Alliance and the Aquaculture Certification Council.  Those comments are followed with responses to the report from the media and the shrimp industry.

 

 

 

Excerpts from The True Cost of Shrimp

 

The Solidarity Center was established to provide assistance to trade unions and workers around the world.  It’s an international, nonprofit, allied organization of the AFL-CIO (American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations), the largest federation of unions in the United States.

 

Solidarity Center staff members in Washington, DC, USA, served as the primary authors and editors of the report.  Solidarity Center field staff in Bangladesh and Thailand coordinated program activities, relayed research information and provided critical editorial assistance for the report.

 

Solidarity Center maintains field offices in Bangladesh and Thailand.  Through partnerships with local trade unions and other nongovernmental organizations, it monitors labor conditions in each country’s shrimp industry and develops programs to assist shrimp workers.

 

 

In the forward to The True Cost of Shrimp, Ellie Larson, Executive Director of Solidarity Center, said: “Bangladesh and Thailand are both major locales for shrimp production and processing.  The Solidarity Center focuses on these two countries in this report.  In both, companies use the lack of labor rights and weak labor law enforcement to exploit shrimp processing workers.  Yet, it is these workers who make the shrimp industry profitable.  Through the work of Solidarity Center partner unions and organizations, we begin to tell their story.”The report, based on interviews with shrimp workers in Thailand and Bangladesh, highlights the arduous conditions that characterize work in their industry—long hours, low pay, abusive employers, informal work, unsafe and unhealthy working conditions, and the vulnerability of migrant workers.

 

The common denominator is the $13 billion global shrimp industry.  Over the past 30 years, the rapid development of aquaculture has made the mass production of shrimp possible and helped make it more affordable.  While shrimp is now the most popular and widely traded seafood in the world, its rise in popularity and profitability is shadowed by its social and environmental costs.

 

These costs are borne largely by workers in shrimp processing plants.  They are integral to the profitability of companies along the shrimp supply chain, yet the world largely ignores their hardships.  This report seeks to illuminate the social costs of shrimp by focusing on workers in Thailand and Bangladesh.

 

 

Comments on the Global Aquaculture Alliance and Aquaculture Certification Council that Appeared in The True Cost of Shrimp

 

To counter growing complaints by health and environmental advocates about shrimp farming and to consolidate various industry guidelines, a leading shrimp industry trade association, the Global Aquaculture Alliance (GAA), recently developed a set of best practices guidelines and created a monitoring agency, the Aquaculture Certification Council (ACC).  The ACC has developed guidelines, known as Best Aquaculture Practices (BAP), for management of shrimp farms and processing plants.  The organization is now working with a number of major retailers, like Wal-Mart, to ensure that BAP-certified shrimp from ACC-approved facilities are sold in stores.  The BAP has two sets of standards, one for farms and one for processing plants.  These standards include property rights, community relations, worker safety, employee relations, mangrove and biodiversity protection, effluent and sediment management, soil/water conservation, waste disposal, sanitation, HACCP standards, and record keeping.

 

On the surface, the guidelines appear to address many of the problems associated with the industry.  For example, in the BAP’s general overview of the standards shrimp farms are instructed not to “damage wetlands or reduce the biodiversity of coastal ecosystems.”  Processing plants are urged to “dispose of process water and sewage in a responsible manner.”  Both farms and processors are called on “to comply with local and national labor law to assure worker safety and adequate compensation.”

 

Critics say that despite the BAP’s positive tone, the guidelines are too weak—outlining very general and simplistic steps that are not independently evaluated.  While the ACC’s current certification questionnaires for farms and processing plants deal more extensively with issues of water quality, sanitation and food safety, the sections devoted to labor issues completely fail to address the complex problems involved in a competitive global industry.

 

For example, in an industry known for processing plant shifts exceeding 12 hours a day, the BAP guidelines make no mention of working hours.  Nor is there mention of how worker rights (much less environmental and food safety standards) are to be monitored in the thousands of small subcontracted facilities that take outsourced orders from larger certified facilities.  While factories are generally asked to provide data on basic wage and benefit rates (and asked to self-certify if they pay these rates), there is no mention of whether or how these standards apply to the growing pool of contract, temporary, and otherwise informal workers in countries like Thailand and Bangladesh.  And while migrant workers play a major role in shrimp processing in countries like Thailand, the guidelines make no mention of international migrant rights standards or best practices to prevent abuses like debt bondage, forced labor, and human trafficking.

 

Although the BAP guidelines acknowledge that workers should have safe working environments and receive adequate compensation, they do not ensure these fundamental rights.  And though facilities are generally exhorted to adhere to both national and international labor standards, they are evaluated only according to national and local minimums in the areas of wages, benefits, and child labor through data provided by the facility, not by an independent evaluator.  The ability of the ACC’s certified inspectors to conduct serious evaluations of labor issues is in some doubt.  Inspectors generally have a wealth of professional expertise in specialties like fisheries management and HACCP standards.  However, according to the ACC’s website, none of them currently has specific expertise in labor law or ILO labor standards compliance.

 

Information: To download a PDF file of The True Cost of Shrimp, click hereSource: Solidarity Center (888 16th Street NW, Suite 400 Washington, DC 20006 USA, webpage www.solidaritycenter.org).  The Degradation of Work/The True Cost of Shrimp/How Shrimp Industry Workers in Bangladesh and Thailand Pay the Price for Affordable Shrimp©.  ISBN 0-9761551-6-8.  January 2008.

 

 

Media and Industry Responses to The True Cost of Shrimp

 

The Aquaculture Certification Council (ACC) has asked the authors of the recently issued report, The True Cost of Shrimp, to provide specific details or retract claims that labor issues are not adequately addressed in the Best Aquaculture Practices Standards (BAP) and ACC Certification Guidelines.

 

ACC President Jim Heerin said that assertions in the report that labor guidelines are too weak are simply not true and completely unsupported by facts.

 

For example, the report alleges that none of ACC’s evaluators have labor law expertise.  In fact, Heerin notes, many ACC evaluators are ISO-qualified for assessing compliance with social standards, including labor law.  For example, of the 137 items in the ACC certification checklist, more than 16 percent are directly related to labor and social criteria, Heerin said.

 

The report further alleges that compliance with the national and local labor standard is based on data provided by the facility, but fails to note that data provided by the facility is just the beginning point, Heerin said.  He further questions the objectivity of the report’s authors, noting that the report makes the statement that the ability of ACC’s certified inspectors to conduct serious evaluations of labor issues is in some doubt.  That statement is not supported in any way by the record, the experience and the training of the evaluators, Heerin emphasized.

 

Had we been offered the opportunity to review this report and address these claims, the report’s authors might have reached a different conclusion.  If they made the effort to get in touch with us prior to the completion of their report, we could have provided them with detailed information on how labor standards are addressed in BAP.  In their own Appendix, the report’s authors provide ACC’s Guidelines for Processing Plants, which cover local and national labor laws, wage rates, child labor, employee safety, medical care, protective gear and training programs.

 

The world needs to know that ACC’s evaluators are fully trained and qualified to conduct the inspections and that such inspections include at a minimum whether the facility is in compliance with national and local labor laws.  Local and national labor laws include working hours, minimum wages and working conditions, all of which are part of the certification process.  Information: Bill More, Aquaculture Certification Council, 12815 72nd Avenue, Northeast, Kirkland, WA 98034 USA (phone 425-825-7935, fax 425-650-3001, email info@aquaculturecertification.org, webpage http://www.aquaculturecertification.org).  Source: Seafood.com (an online, subscription-based, fisheries news service).  ACC has high labor standards for shrimp certification, says ‘True Cost of Shrimp’ claims false.  Editor and Publisher, John Sackton (phone 781-861-1441, email jsackton@seafood.com).  April 24, 2008.

 

The Global Aquaculture Alliance challenges the authors of a newly released report on working conditions in shrimp processing plants in Thailand and Bangladesh to provide specific details or deliver an apology to the countries and companies involved in shrimp production.

 

GAA Executive Director Wally Stevens delivered the challenge in an interview on CNN (below) that was aired on the USA edition of the network.

 

“Over the past 10 years, our organization has led the way in the development of global aquaculture standards,” Stevens said.  He added that GAA’s Best Aquaculture Practices standards encompass social justice issues such as worker safety and child labor regulations, and address food safety, traceability and the environment, as well.

 

Producers seeking BAP certification must undergo a rigorous, independent audit by a recognized certification body.  Companies that do not measure up on all of the key areas are not certified.  Failure to maintain compliance with a standard will also cause a company to lose its certification, Stevens said.

 

In addressing the issue of worker rights, Stevens said, “Families are at the heart of the seafood industry in the United States and around the globe, and we who are in the business of putting food on American tables consider any evidence of child labor or worker abuse to be abhorrent.”

 

He questioned why the report’s authors chose to release their report without contacting the Global Aquaculture Alliance, the leading global aquaculture standards-setting organization. “Our approach is to work with many organizations to find common ground and solutions to the challenges that face a young industry such as aquaculture,” Stevens said.  “We prefer a solution-oriented approach rather than one that creates headlines and creates a climate of fear, uncertainty and doubt.”

 

Stevens pointed out the fact that one-third of the shrimp consumed in the United States has been processed at BAP-certified facilities.  Information: Sally Krueger, Assistant Director, Global Aquaculture Alliance, 5661 Telegraph Road, Suite 3A, St. Louis, MO 63129 USA (phone 314-293-5500, fax 314-293-5525, email sallyk@gaalliance.org, webpage http://www.gaalliance.org/).  Source: Global Aquaculture Alliance.  News Release.  Global Aquaculture Alliance Challenges Shrimp Labor Study Group to Provide Details or Deliver Apology/Executive Director Wally Stevens Interviewed on CNN.  April 24, 2008.

 

Reuters News: Abuses of shrimp industry workers in Thailand and Bangladesh constitute “modern-day slavery,” a USA official said on April 23, 2008, after a labor group documented poor conditions in those countries.  “Forced labor, child labor and debt bondage: These are forms of modern-day slavery, plainly put,” said Mark Lagon head of the USA State Department’s Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons.  “It’s essential that people know with absolute certainty that the flow of shrimp into the USA market is tainted by shrimp that’s processed by the hands of those in slavery,” he told a news conference in Washington, DC, USA.  Source: The Vancouver Sun.  Report details labour abuse in worldwide shrimp trade.  Paul Edkert (Reuters News).  April 24, 2008.

 

The National Fisheries Institute (the nation’s leading advocacy organization for the seafood industry): NFI rejects any mistreatment of workers or other human rights abuses.  Workers—whether they be fishermen on the water, farmers at their ponds, or processors at plants—form the backbone of the seafood community.  NFI takes accusations of worker mistreatment seriously.

 

However, NFI also demands any group making an accusation provide specific details, so appropriate authorities can properly investigate the situation.  In a report released on April 23, 2008, Solidarity Center, an offshoot of the AFL-CIO union, alleges that workers at fish processing plants in Thailand and Bangladesh are mistreated.  These charges should be examined.  If true, offending companies should be punished.

 

If there are bad actors in Thailand and Bangladesh, USA importers should reject them, said NFI President John Connelly.  If these accusations are valid, they stand in stark contrast to the code by which the USA seafood community operates.  Let’s hope that these accusations turn out to be incorrect.

 

American importers, producers, processors and fishermen work hard to ensure the use of practices that promote not only the sustainability of their product but also the health and safety of their workers.  A commitment to competitive wages and sound working conditions is a hallmark of the industry.  Any suggestion that shrimp importers have knowingly purchased products from processing facilities substandard in their treatment of workers is simply not consistent with the character of the industry.  Additionally, any suggestion that these alleged practices are widespread is false.  Painting the entire industry with a broad brush does a disservice to the conscientious companies that meet and exceed operational standards every day.

 

Ninety percent of the shrimp Americans eat is imported.  As the single most popular type of seafood, it is a healthy and sustainable staple of the USA diet.  Consumers need to know their shrimp comes from a safe and trusted source.  The charges of the Solidarity Center should be thoroughly examined, said Connelly.  Information: John Connelly, National Fisheries Institute, 7918 Jones Beach Drive, Suite 700, McLean, VA 22102 USA (phone 703-752-8880, http://www.aboutseafood.com).  Source: Seafood.com (an online, subscription-based, fisheries news service).  NFI calls for investigation into allegations that foreign shrimp processors violated labor laws.  Editor and Publisher, John Sackton (phone 781-861-1441, email jsackton@seafood.com).  April 23, 2008.

 

John Sackton, Editor of Seafood.com Reports: Bangladesh was working on labor issues before True Costs was published.  The Bangladesh Shrimp and Fish Foundation has been working with the Department of Fisheries to guide the shrimp industry and exporters in adhering to food safety, environmental, and social and labor standards.  The labor standards that are enforced, pertaining to child labor in the garment and shrimp industries, are based on the official Bangladesh Labor Act 2006.

 

In October 2007, the AFL-CIO filed a petition with the USA Trade Representative alleging serious violations of labor law in the garment and frozen food export sectors in Bangladesh.  The USA Trade Representative, after a hearing, did not impose any measures against Bangladesh, but opted to keep the matter open and observe conditions in Bangladesh until June of 2008.

 

This prompted Bangladeshi representatives to undertake a campaign to ensure that export factories were aware of the labor standards act, that they posted the relevant material, monitored compliance and distributed material to all stakeholders, including employees.

 

The Bangladesh Shrimp and Fish Foundation has undertaken a project to correct any problems in the shrimp processing industry.  The objectives are to educate shrimp processors about the labor laws in the Bangladesh Labor Act, including the prohibition on child labor, to assess shrimp processors awareness of child, adolescent and women’s legal rights regarding labor conditions and working hours, and to assess noncompliance, if any, within the shrimp processing sector.

 

So far, the project has completed the summary of the labor laws and published the material in English and Bengali for distribution to shrimp processors.

 

The Bangladesh Frozen Food Exporters Association has sent out questionnaires to its members on their awareness of the laws and on their compliance with the laws.  The results are currently being tabulated.  Most of the exporters have responded.

 

In addition, two industry seminars have been held to urgently educate the shrimp industry about the expectations of the industry value chain in terms of compliance with labor rules and standards.  They were told this is necessary to sustain the export industry.

 

The main point expressed by the Bangladesh Shrimp and Fish Foundation is that the processors and the government take these allegations of child labor abuse very seriously and that violations are not occurring on the part of shrimp exporters.  Source: Seafood.com (an online, subscription-based, fisheries news service).  Bangladesh shrimp industry moving to enforce labor standards before ‘true cost of shrimp’ published.  By John Sackton.  Editor and Publisher, John Sackton (phone 781-861-1441, email jsackton@seafood.com).  April 29, 2008.

 

Thai Frozen Foods Association: The Thai Frozen Foods Association declared that its members have never supported abuses against foreign workers and were ready to cooperate with USA authorities if they want proof.

 

Mr. Poj Aramwattananont, president of the Thai Frozen Foods Association, said the accusations in the report were based on old information and lack of evidence.  “The association with 240 members, 80 percent of whom are seafood producers and exporters, and 110 operating factories that achieve international standards and good corporate governance principles, has never supported any kinds of acts that run against the law, be it the employment of illegal workers, child labor or any labor maltreatment,” he said.  According to Poj, the association is seeking cooperation with government units such as the ministries of Labor, Commerce, Interior and Foreign Affairs to help prepare official statements to counter The Solidarity Center’s claims.  “We are ready to cooperate with all parties to verify this accusation and find facts,” said Poj.  “The report may result in adverse effects on the Thai shrimp and seafood industry.  The association itself has sought cooperation from all members to help explain the truth to their customers.”

 

Apiradi Tantraporn, director-general of the Foreign Trade Department, said the department itself had already submitted a letter to explain the real situation of the Thai shrimp industry to the USA government, adding that Thailand has never supported forced labor and the employment of illegal workers.  Apiradi also urged the USA authorities to provide Thailand with evidence to find the whereabouts of such illegal acts.  Source: SeafoodSource.com.  Thai Shrimpers Lash Out at Report.  May 1, 2008.

 

CNN Reports: The Solidarity Center report names some of the most popular retailers in America, including Wal-Mart, Costco and Trader Joe’s as buyers of shrimp from Bangladesh or Thailand.  But only Wal-Mart responded to CNN inquiries about the shipments and pledged to examine allegations of abuse in plants that supply some of its shrimp.

 

“Safety is a top priority at Wal-Mart,” spokesman Deisha Galberth said in a written statement to CNN.  “We hold our shrimp suppliers to the highest safety and quality standards—including maintaining processing plants and packaging facilities that meet or exceed Best Aquaculture Practices, standards set by the Global Aquaculture Alliance.  ...We’re not aware of any issues in our supply chain,” the company said in the statement.

 

The State Department and the International Labor Organization are working with both countries to improve the conditions for workers in their shrimp industries.  The Department of Labor told CNN it has been working with the Thai government on a project aimed specifically at eliminating child labor from the shrimp industry.

 

In interviews with CNN, diplomats from both countries said their governments are working to address problems in the shrimp sector but stressed their economies were still developing.

 

“We proceed from the same common premise that this thing is evil.  This thing has to be tackled squarely,” Krit Granjana-Goonchorn, Thailand’s ambassador to the United States, told CNN. “I don’t think you will find anyone more willing than the government of Thailand in that regard.”

 

Bangladesh’s ambassador to the United States, Humayun Kabir, said about 15 cases have come to the country’s labor court since 2006.  About half of them have gone to trial, and those responsible have been punished, he said.

 

The shrimp industry’s global trade group, the Global Aquaculture Alliance, says it is not aware of its member plants operating under the conditions the Solidarity Center report describes, but said it is going to take a harder look and the offenders could be cut out from the global marketplace.

 

“We absolutely will investigate any specifics that come forth from this report,” GAA’s Executive Director Wally Stevens told CNN. “If those plants are in any way conducting themselves in an inappropriate way, they’ll be dropped from our program.”

 

The State Department also hopes the report will force consumers to think before they buy, Lagon said.

 

Information: watch the CNN videoSource: CNN.com.  Report ties U.S. retailers to sweatshop shrimp.  Zain Verjee, Elise Labott, Justine Redman and Kocha Olarn.  April 24, 2008.

 

Thailand Defends Its Record: On May 6, 2008, Thai shrimpers submitted an open letter to USA Ambassador Eric John demanding justice from the United States following allegations of abuses of foreign workers by the Thai shrimp industry.  In the letter, Somsak Paneetatyasai, the president of the Thai Shrimp Association said: The allegations made by a USA nongovernmental organization were far removed from the truth and definitely intended to discredit the Thai shrimp industry and shake consumers’ confidence in Thai shrimp products.  “The association is hoping that the USA government will help to correct the misinformation with the NGO and to right the wrong,” he said.  “We would like all parties concerned and the world to know the truth that there is no labor abuse in Thai shrimp processing plants as claimed and that the industry does not approve of any ill-treatment of labor, Thais or migrants.”

 

Somsak said the report was based on selected interviews of a limited number of workers.  “It is well accepted by importers of all countries that the Thai shrimp industry is the producer of highest quality shrimp products with food safety integrity.  This is because Thailand is the leader in intensive shrimp farming technology that is environmentally friendly.  It is well regarded that only Thailand can meet the standard of the most stringent shrimp importing country.  Thai shrimp are processed and produced in processing plants with the highest standard on all aspects, unlike the accusations made by the NGO.”

 

Importantly, Somsak said that Thailand’s 110 export-oriented shrimp processing plants have served the United States, the European Union, Japan and other markets that have stringent standards regarding imported shrimp.  Source: Bangkok Post.  Shrimpers defend record.  May 7, 2008.

 

Bangladesh Government to Visit Shrimp Farms and Processing Plants: On May 9, 2008, commerce adviser Hossain Zillur Rahman said a government delegation will visit shrimp farms and processing plants on May 15, 2008, to evaluate the charges made in The True Cost of Shrimp.  Representatives of Solidarity Center, the European Union, the USA Embassy and journalists will join government officials on the tour.  “Everything cannot be solved overnight.  We are trying to improve the situation.  Work will continue in phases,” Dr. Rahman said.  “We are visiting the scene to review the ground reality.  If there is any problem, it will be solved.  We are approaching the whole issue in a problem-solving manner.  Everything has to be done in a systematic way.  Many steps have already been taken,” Rahman said.

 

Rahman said: “We appreciate all credible evidence which can help us improve the situation.  But we also insist that all evidence is credible and up-to-date.”

 

Bangladesh Shrimp and Fish Foundation chairman Syed Mahmudul Haque said, “The publication of such a report at a time when work is being done to improve labor compliance in the shrimp industry is unfortunate.”  Since the introduction of a new labor law in October 2006, a number of steps have been taken, Haque said.

 

A broad program was launched in 2007 to create awareness among shrimp farm owners, as part of a “vigorous campaign”.  Complaint boxes have been set up at processing plants.  “One box has been put at the office of the shrimp industry owners’ association,” he said.  Mobile teams have been formed, according to Haque, to monitor the situation.  “Any authorized person can visit any plant without notice.  Industry owners understand that any flaw will hurt the industry.”  Source: Independent Bangladesh.  Govt visits shrimp farms, processing plants on May 15.  May 10, 2008.

 

Steven Hedlund, Associate Editor at SeaFood Business, Reports: The Solidarity Center has been in hiding since releasing a 40-page report documenting extensive labor abuse at processing plants in Bangladesh and Thailand.  Solidarity Center threw punches; now it’s time to name names.

 

In early May 2008, the Solidarity Center posted an “interview” it conducted with Ellie Larson, its executive director, to its webpage, which is akin to a journalist answering his or her own questions.  When asked why the Solidarity Center is not responding to demands that it provide details or apologize to Thailand and Bangladesh, Larson says, “The findings in The True Cost of Shrimp speak for themselves.”  Information: Steven Hedlund, Associate Editor, SeaFood Business, 121 Free Street, Portland, ME 04101 USA (phone 207-842-5639, fax 207-842-5603, email shedlund@divcom.com).  Source: SeafoodSource.com.  Suddenly Silent Solidarity Center Needs to Speak Up.  Steven Hedlund.  May 12, 2008.

 

SeafoodSource.com Reports: The Solidarity Center yesterday explained why it declined to identify the shrimp processing plants it cited in its 40-page report documenting extensive labor abuse in Southeast Asia’s shrimp industry.

 

The Solidarity Center said: “Our primary concern is the security and well being of the workers involved in this study.  We want to avoid a situation where facilities are shut down, workers are fired and worker-rights advocates are endangered in an attempt to suppress rather than address the industry’s problems,” says Joan Welsh, communications program officer for the Solidarity Center’s Global Outreach Department.

 

“We also do not want to release information that could be used by USA retailers or importers to abandon particular plants,” she adds.  “Closing factories is often nothing more than a public relations tactic that enables retailers and importers to claim they have addressed broader problems in the industry.  Our experience over the years on these issues has taught us that abandoning suppliers is very rarely an appropriate solution.”

 

SeafoodSource.com added: In a May 9, 2008, letter addressed to Timothy Ryan, regional program director-Asia/Europe for the Solidarity Center, the National Fisheries Institute requested a meeting with the report’s authors.  In that letter, John Connelly, NFI’s president, said, “NFI’s members are uniquely positioned to bring about positive change where situations of mistreatment have been identified....  NFI is anxious to solve specific and identifiable problems in the shrimp or broader seafood industry.  Those solutions are best started by digging into the specifics of allegations.  Absent that kind of specificity, it is difficult to pinpoint where laws are not being enforced.  It also tars the plants with excellent operations and reputations with the same brush as those committing odious abuses.”  Source: SeafoodSource.com.  Solidarity Center Defends Labor Abuse Report.  May 16, 2008.

 

Bangladesh Vows to Discipline Shrimp Farms for Labor Violations: Following the recent investigations of the working conditions at shrimp-processing plants in Southeast Asia, Bangladesh is trying to convince the global market that its shrimp industry complies with international labor laws.  During a seminar on working conditions last week sponsored by the Bangladesh Shrimp and Fish Foundation and Bangladesh Frozen Foods Exporters Association, several labor experts voiced concerns on the issue.  Hossain Zillur Rahman, Bangladeshi commerce advisor, said the government is taking a “proactive and problem-solving approach” in making sure compliance to the labor regulations is mandatory in the shrimp industry and is working with all stakeholders to improve working conditions of shrimp industry workers to be able to compete in the global shrimp market.

 

Responding to Rahman, David Welsh, country director of American Center for International Labor Solidarity in Bangladesh, also a guest speaker at the seminar, praised the significant improvement in working conditions the country has achieved.  He stressed that boycotting Bangladeshi products is no way to encourage better working conditions.

 

Dr. Mahmudul Karim, executive director of the Foundation, said that all of its members are required to comply with labor laws.  The key factors that the foundation is looking at when examining compliance, said Karim, are child labor and labor rights.  Mahfuzul Haque, Bangladeshi labor and employment secretary, commented that violators are punished heavily.  The department trains labor inspectors to identify labor law violations and report them accordingly, noted Haque.  Source: SeafoodSource.com.  Bangladesh Vows to Discipline Shrimp Farms for Labor Violations.  Linda Salim.  May 22, 2008.

 

Charles Woodhouse, an Attorney and Shrimp Farming Columnist for Fish Farming International, Reports: I am not going to comment on the specific points of the report, but believe that all industry executives need to see this report.  I will say, however, that the AFL-CIO is a serious and politically powerful organization and the backbone of the USA Democrat Party.  Its findings will be widely read and taken seriously by public-policy decision makers in the USA government, by consumer organizations and by retail industry executives.  Do not think for a moment that this is just another “Greenpeace-type” report from an extremist organisation.  The AFL-CIO is a mainstream organization that will have unlimited access to the White House if the USA elects a Democrat president in November.

 

This report has already damaged companies that are named, and there is no way to spin this story positively.  In this author’s opinion, the accusations consist of falsehoods and half-truths presented in a biased and conclusory manner.  There is an old saying among lawyers: “Throw a skunk into the jury box and then let the judge tell the jurors not to smell it”.  Well, the AFLCIO has definitely tossed a skunk into America’s homes at dinner time—with the help of CNN and Fox News.  Source: Fish Farming International (http://www.fishfarminginternational.com).  Editor, Kenny McCaffrey (kenny.mccaffrey@informa.com).  Sweeping changes in US import regulations.  Charles Woodhouse (email cfw@woodhouselaw.com). Volume 35, Number 5, Page 8, May 2008.

 

Source: Bob Rosenberry, Shrimp News International, May 24, 2008.

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