Vision: February 2012
Verité up close:
From the Field:
By Allison Arbib, Raw Materials Program Manager
Debt, patronage and dependency cause vulnerability for workers in fishing communities.
The fishery work force is increasingly casual.
Building Livelihoods and Accountability
- Companies sourcing products from the fishing, shrimp and aquaculture sectors must apply best-practice approaches to information gathering at the bottom of their supply chain that have become common in other sectors. Fishing communities can often be closed, and due to the nature of fishing, it can be difficult to gain access to the boats and interview workers in a way that is comfortable for them. Verité’s experience is that such information can be credibly gathered, however, using skills and approaches that we and our partner NGOs have applied in research into the fishing sector.
- Seafood-oriented certification systems must do more to address labor conditions as inextricably linked to the environmental factors they currently prioritize.
- Once information is gathered, companies that sell fishery products should share it with their business partners in the supply chain, such that accountability can be built at all levels.
- Companies must recognize that the lack of alternative livelihoods and the environmental consequences of overfishing exacerbate the problem of working conditions.
- Provision of alternative means of credit can be a useful tool to help workers avoid dependency on their employer through debt, and thus can reduce vulnerability.
- Labor migration in fisheries is a problem just as it is in other sectors. The tools that Verité has disseminated through our Help Wanted Toolkit are applicable in this sector, and should be applied.
- Where child labor in fisheries is present (see the draft ILO report: Guide to Child Labor in Fishing and Aquaculture) governments must apply a full range of interventions, including recommitting to providing quality education to all children through the minimum age of mandatory schooling. The ILO has identified education as a crucial way to prevent child labor.
What We're Talking About:
First, companies have to closely examine the use of labor contractors to provide workers for their suppliers, making sure that workers do not pay excessive fees and face vulnerability due to debt-bondage. Companies can require suppliers to use only brokers that adhere to Verité’s forthcoming ethical standards for labor brokerage. Verité’s Help Wanted Toolkit provides a detailed and ready-to-use guide, so there is no excuse for ignoring this particular issue.
Second, companies have to look at the harvesting or gathering of raw materials that end up in their products. Slavery has been found in agriculture, mining and fisheries (as we’ve detailed elsewhere in this issue of Vision).
Unless companies are first mapping and then assessing conditions facing workers at the bottom levels of the supply chain, they are not addressing risks. Unfortunately, without this information, their disclosures against the California Act are not particularly meaningful.
Solving Overtime Problems in China
In this White Paper, Verité outlines the sources and reasons for this problem, explains the Chinese Comprehensive System and illustrates how a systems-based approach can provide sustainable solutions. This White Paper is also available in Chinese. 阅读本文的中文版本。
An excerpt from "For Workers' Benefit":
Insight to Impact
After taking these findings and reviewing them with the factory, the company implemented a corrective action process. Anti-harassment training and policies were put in place, an effective grievance mechanism was implemented and health and safety violations were eliminated. Workers told us that they could tell things were getting better and that their work environment had improved.
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