From Socialist Voice, April 2007

Wal-Mart condemned for child labour

The Norwegian government’s pension fund, with $285 billion in holdings, is dropping Wal-Mart, the world’s largest retailer, from its fund because of the use of child labour and systematic sweatshop abuses in its huge global supply chain.
     In its annual report for 2006 the Council on Ethics for the Government Pension Fund reached the following conclusion: “There is no doubt . . . that Wal-Mart purchases a number of products that are manufactured under unacceptable conditions. There are numerous reports of child labor, serious violations of working hour regulations, wages below the local minimum, health-hazardous working conditions, unreasonable punishment, prohibition of unionization and extensive use of a production system that fosters working conditions bordering on forced labor, and employees being locked into production premises, etc. in Wal-Mart’s supply chain. All the above examples represent violations of internationally recognized standards for labor rights and human rights . . .
     “The Petroleum Fund’s Council on Ethics considers that there is an unacceptable risk that the fund, through its investments in Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and Wal-Mart de México SA, may be complicit in serious or systematic violations of human rights. The Council recommends that Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and Wal-Mart de México SA be excluded from the Petroleum Fund’s portfolio . . .”
     On the American front, the fund found Wal-Mart guilty of “discrimination of female employees,” “active obstruction of employees’ right to unionize,” “violations dealing with the employment of minors,” “mandatory overtime without compensation,” and the “use of illegal labor.”
     In the section of the report dealing with Wal-Mart’s abusive offshore sweatshop practices, the Norwegian government’s Council on Ethics largely relied on the National Labor Committee’s research in Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Bangladesh, and China. This research was corroborated by other independent human rights and workers’ rights organisations.

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