Supermarket Slave Labour

              The past decades the whole world has seen the rapid development of the global economy, which has brought a great deal of conveniences to the countries as well as the companies that perform in them (Old and Shafto, 1992). To be more specific, the global economy is the state of the economy that has introduced the concept of globalization (Robertson, 1992). Financial Times lexicon (2015) defines globalization as “the integration of economies, industries, markets, cultures and policy-making around the world”. To put it differently, globalization has facilitated the economy in many aspects. The free trade, free markets and the free movement of the capital illustrate this point (Weinstein, 2005).

Unfortunately, besides the positive aspects that could be used positively to improve the international economy, there are some people who prefer to take advantage of the phenomenon in order to maximize their wealth through the modern slave labor. Both the government corruption and the dramatic increase in population have led to this horrific situation (Bales, 1999). It is a fact that the abolition in 19th century did not end the slavery as it was supposed to. Instead, the International Labour Organization estimates that there are about 21 million people enslaved in one or another way (International labour organization, 2015).

The surveys have provided people with valuable information about not only the characteristics of the modern slavery but also about the forms in which they appear. To begin with, the modern slave includes men, women and children who are forced to work in agriculture, factories or sweatshops for nothing or to repay the calculated debt (Andrees and Belser, 2009). Moving on, some of the basic characteristics of the new slavery tendency are: low-cost, high profits and the short-term relationship that the slaveholders have with slaves (Bales, 1999). This essay will discuss some sound examples from such cases.


Now more than ever the companies all over the world take care of their employees (Schermerhorn et al., 2005). It is one of the most common and repeated statements supported in every study and in every book that manage to provide the CEOs with the best way of making the employees the most valuable assets of their companies. However, looking at the other side of the coin people are able to reveal that this is a desired lie that everyone wants to believe. In other words, in 21st century there has been noticed a great deal of forced labour exploitation or even worse a slave labour activity. To be more specific, there are some remarkable examples of this morbid situation that provide people with some food for thought in order to suggest, take action and put an end to this. People in less developed countries pay a high price providing us with food, clothes and metals (Turner, 1995). Everyone has to be aware of people exploitation that takes place in some countries with cases such as employee’s death after factory destruction in Bangladesh, a number of suicides in Chinese computer industries and the children work exploitation in a worldwide trainers industry, the Nike (The Guardian, 2014). The most recent investigation has provided another one case that has to do with people who work under inhuman conditions in Thailand to provide supermarkets with prawns (The Guardian, 2014).

The Guardian (2014) made a great effort to inform people about what happens in Thailand, which is thought to be the world’s largest prawn’s exporters. Clearly, it was reported that people was sold to boats and held against their will for years. A former monk from Combodia, who had gone through many trials, states that “we were treated like animals, but we are not animals-we are human beings” (Supermarket Slave Labour, 2014). They had to work not only under unimaginable work conditions but also in constant fear of punishment. To be more specific, they worked for twenty two hours a day with no food, with no care. Some of them were given methamphetamines in order to keep moving and working. Moreover, the horrific conditions included regularly beating, tortures and execution style killing although they worked hard (The Guardian, 2014).

The slavery of those people has begun with their desire to gain a better life. As a result they paid brokers to find them a job. However, they exploited these people who were already aggrieved by their fate by selling them to boats for 450 pounds. They seduced them to work for prawn industry called CP foods, into ghost boats, namely boats without license (Supermarket Slave Labour, 2014). CP foods are thought to be the world’s largest prawn’s exporter and the most profitable in this field with an annual turnover of £53 bn. The industry supplies international supermarkets such as Walmart, Carrefour, Costco and Tesco, Aldi and Morrisons. What is more, it is estimated that the factory manages to sell 500.000 tones prawns every year. According to the government there are 300.000 people that are enforced to work in fishing boats and 90% of them are migrants (The Guardian, 2014).

Unfortunately, this unacceptable phenomenon keeps to be ignored by both the government and the whole society. As a matter of fact, the government does not take serious action to improve and eliminate the supermarket slave labour or to sensitize our fellow humans about such cases. Comparatively, the society by buying prawns from those supermarkets becomes complicit in this crime against humanity (Open Democracy, 2014). The supermarket slave labour that had been noticed in Thailand violates basic human rights that can be extracted as a conclusion from a notarized statement told to the Guardians “When I first come to Thailand I thought we were all equals. But it is not like that here. They do not think that way. They beat us. Why? We were considered worthless. A fish has more value than we do. We are less than human” (Supermarket Slave Labour, 2014).


Another shocking example of supermarket slave labor is revealed in the United Kingdom. Most compelling evidence is that of gangmasters who cooperate with smugglers in order to transfer employees on farms for an unthinkably low wage (The Telegraph, 2000).

To put it differently, a significant number of populations in Eastern Europe are in search of a better life, which could be able to provide them with a beneficial work including not only good working conditions but also a better way of live in order to feel integrated with the whole society. As a result, they pay a huge amount of money in order to come to the UK and have “decent” job (Galgoczi, Leschke and Watt, 2009).

The Telegraph (2000) reported that most of those people fell in the trap of newspaper advertisement which promised a high-paid job according to the current world economy conditions. Taking for granted the benefits that the advertisements promised them, they paid £1000 in order to make false passports and to pay fees for their transportation to the UK. As soon as they arrived to their destination some of them were brutalized and got enslaved and some other were offered a cheap work on farms that supply own-brand products to some leading supermarkets. Sainsbury’s, Iceland and Asda could serve as good illustration.

The illegal forced laborers are forced to work for almost £5 a day on a farm, a work which is considered being one of the most responsible and difficult since they have to do with the livestock. It is often alleged that, they have to be offered the necessary care in order to provide supermarkets with healthy and hygienic products (Findeis et al., 2002). Otherwise, it can create serious problems not only with supermarkets but also with the law. The scandal with the horsemeat in Netherlands could be used as a most recent example (Fox news, 2013).

It is undeniable that some food suppliers, with the best example of Geo Adams, use illegal workers to produce and sell products under their own-brand labels to some world famous supermarkets that have been illustrated above. Although the chairman declines to answer clearly regarding the illegal immigrants who are working on his farm the BBC proved this by some records that shows the farm employs people who could be characterized as slaves due to the low payment as well as the lack of the luxury to quit the current job and find a decent employment with satisfactory work conditions (The Telegraph, 2000).


The 21st century should be free from the slavery and generally all the companies have to be sensitized to themes such as basic human rights supported not only by the law but also by Corporate Social Responsibility which prohibits developed countries to cooperate with other countries that use slave labour. Generally the CSR is an official unwritten statement that poses the companies the challenge to take care of not only the environment issues but also the well-being of employees as well as the engaging members (Coombs and Holladay, 2012). In contrast, developed countries, as it has been discovered above, do not usually abide by the CSR due to the financial interests, a typical example of this is a reduction of production cost. To achieve these goals companies use the services of those people, who are supposed to be slave labour, in order to provide supermarket’s consumers with the goods they demand.

However, the previous examples have proved that even nowadays there are significant populations that work under inhumane conditions with no money or a very low payment. In order to improve this situation, the government and the society have to take actions. To be more specific, the government has to constitute laws and regulations that would be able to prohibit the exploitation of people and put heavy fines on those who violate the laws (Wlliams, 1944). Moreover, the government in Thailand has to recognize the need for the change and to take under serious consideration the fact that there are a great number of “ghost” boats that enslave people and although the police officers are aware of that they do not take any actions (The Guardian, 2014).

On the other hand, the society has to provide aid to reduce the horrific cases. To put it differently, they have to be up to date with the latest and help the International Labour Organization to search and efface the forced labour (Taylor, 1977). An alternative option is to become a member of Anti-Slavery International and take action within the system, by saving our fellow’s human lives through anti-slavery movements. What is more, the society must disclose that people suffer in some countries under inhumane work conditions and make the government take direct actions. Those are the only possible and legitimate ways to limit the mistreatment of workers, the mistreatment of nature, and the mistreatment of ourselves, giving good example to future generations.


To sum up, the modern slavery is a fact that cannot be ignored any more. There are a lot of people all over the world that have been trapped in such situations and do not have the ability to speak due to their fear. The two cases in Thailand and Great Britain that have been discussed above are the most sound and horrific in the 21st century.

On the whole, those people are forced to work under inhumane conditions with no money, with no food, with no compassion. They are treated hard by beating, tortures and execution-style killings or paying them almost nothing. The only possible way to limit the unbelievable situation is to activate the government and the society. These two sides have to work together in order to find ways to limit this phenomenon through the constitualization of laws and heavy fines on those who violate them.

Above all, people should not forget their humanity and treat everyone as equals. What is more, people in developed countries ought to bear in mind the statement of director Anti-Slavery International, who claims that “If you buy prawns or shrimp from Thailand, you will be buying the produce of slave labour”, before buying something produced in those countries. Finally, modern slavery is a phenomenon that requires a constant effort and vigilance from both government and people in order to be limited.



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  9. Taylor, J. R. (1977) Exploitation through contrived dependence, Journal of economic Issues, 11(1), pp. 51-59.
  10. Turner, M. (1995) From Chattel Slaves to Wage slaves: The dynamics of labour bargaining in the Americas. London: James Currey Ltd.
  11. Weinstein, M. (2005) Globalization: What’s new? Columbia University Press
  12. Williams, E. (1994) Capitalism and slavery. Chapel Hill: University of north California Press.
  13. Supermarket Slave Labour 2014, video, Guardian films Journeyman Pictures, 20 June 2014, viewed 17th January 2014, < >




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