Stop exploitation of shrimp workers, Bangladesh urged

March 10, 2014 No Comments

64 (1)Western governments, large retailers and consumers should put pressure on the Bangladeshi government to ensure a fair deal for the 1.2 million workers and their dependents in the shrimp industry, campaigners have said. Bangladesh is among the top 10 exporters of farmed shrimp and this is the country’s second largest foreign currency after the garment industry.

However, those working in the industry in Bangladesh are poor and being pushed further into poverty. This is a result of exploitative and often abusive practices, according to a report by the Environmental Justice Foundation (EJF). The EJF says the industry is plagued by hazardous working conditions, child labour, bonded labour, withholding of pay, excessively low wages, health and safety violations, restricted union activities, verbal abuse and excessive hours. “There is a massive, valuable international trade in seafood providing billions of dollars in income, but there are appalling working conditions and a small minority is getting the vast benefits of the industry,” EJF’s executive director, Steve Trent, has commented.

Trent believes there is the possibility of securing improvement, if pressure is applied, given the changes in the garment industry after a factory collapse last April killed more than 1,100 workers. “There is scope for action,” he said. “After the intensity of media coverage, the government felt it had to act and that has filtered down. People we are talking to are saying things have definitely got better.”

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