In Australia, four supermarkets chains (Aldi, Woolworths, Coles and IGA) are entangled in a child labour scandal involving Thai Union, one of the largest seafood suppliers in the world. The allegations concern a prawn peeling factory in Samut Sakhon, near Bangkok, one of several facilities allowed to export seafood in Australia.
According to an Associated Press’ investigation, hundreds of workers including children, mostly migrants from Myanmar, were seen working under poor conditions, sometimes even being locked inside the building and unable to escape. Witnesses told that children were forced to work under threats of violence.
As the scandal came to light, all four supermarkets giants have confirmed using Thai Union as a supplier, and promised to investigate further into the issue.
Meanwhile, Thai Union released a statement, signed by president and CEO Thiraphong Chansiri, saying that “any illegal or unethical labour practices are unacceptable to Thai Union, and we are committed to take the necessary actions to ensure products in our supply chain are brought to market in a way that is consistent with our values to operate with integrity and with the utmost respect for human rights. Nothing less will be tolerated.”
In note, Greenpeace USA Oceans Campaign Director John Hocevar accused the company of having turned a blind eye to what was happening.
“With each new scandal, so-called global seafood leader Thai Union responds in the narrowest way possible. The company does just enough to weather the PR storm while continuing to profit off the backs of the migrant workers forced to work throughout its supply chains,” Hocevar said.
“The latest allegations are especially disturbing because they suggest Thai Union knew about its forced labour issues and had an employee visiting an implicated factory on a daily basis. Clearly, Thai Union cannot continue pleading ignorance, it’s going to take more than the bare minimum action to win customers’ trust back.”