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Slave Labor and Asian Fisheries

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Above: Slaves in the Thai fishing industry

Nestlé, long one of the world’s most evil corporations, has finally admitted that much of its fish is procured through slave labor.

Migrant workers toiling in Thailand’s seafood industry to supply global companies such as Nestle SA are subjected to hazardous, exploitative and degrading conditions in which some fishermen are even sold to other boat captains, a report commissioned by the company found.

The report conducted by Verite on behalf of Geneva-based Nestle and released Monday found “indicators of forced labor, trafficking, and child labor to be present among sea-based and land-based workers.” The findings, which are consistent with the non-government group’s previous research on Thailand’s fishing industry, “present an urgent challenge to any company sourcing seafood.”

Of course, this is hardly the first time Nestlé has been busted for slave labor in its supply chains, having previously received serious scrutiny for both slave and child labor in its chocolate sourcing. See more on the chocolate issue here.
There has been a lot of publicity lately on slave labor in the Asian fisheries. The conditions are terrible and often murderous but the attention is what we need to try and do something about it.

The problem here is what is Nestlé going to do about it.

In addition to the commissioned report, Nestle also released its own action plan that it said is designed to stamp out abuses in its supply chain. The plan includes setting up channels through which workers can air grievances, training for boat captains and owners, and establishing better methods of tracing raw materials and verifying labor standards.

That might sound good. But what none of this does is actually hold Nestlé legally responsible for its suppliers. It continues the fiction that there’s ply so much that these companies can do about their supply chains. That’s of course ridiculous–if the costs of a certain supplier rise too high, the company will most certainly do something about it. Training boat captains? For what? “Hey guys, maybe you shouldn’t actually murder the slaves on your boats. But don’t worry, we won’t actually do anything about it if you do murder them, especially if you can cover it up.” The best tool we have right now is suing these companies and there is some evidence that this can create change, at least to the extent that Nestlé admitting this is change. Obviously we need much more to hold Nestlé executives personally accountable for the abuses in their supply chains.

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