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Fishery workers

Individual Documents

Title: Masters of the Sea
Date of publication: September 2010
Description/subject: Thailand is one of the world’s major fish-exporting countries, but it is Burmese fishermen who keep the industry alive... "Aung Than is no ordinary fisherman. At 33, he is already a veteran of the seas. His years of hard work and commitment to his job have earned him the position of “yay shuu,” or master, of the Thai-owned vessel on which he and his fellow Burmese crew members make their living in the Andaman Sea. As the most experienced and highly qualified member of his ship’s crew, he earns 10,000 baht (US $310) a month—about three times the basic salary of a Burmese fisherman working in Thailand, and 10 times what he would make in his native Burma. Thailand’s fishing industry is kept afloat by a massive influx of migrant labor from neighboring Burma. Both on the ships and in the fish-processing plants, Burmese make up the majority of workers, doing jobs shunned by Thais. Fishermen are in especially high demand, working long hours for low wages, often risking life and limb to keep consumers around the world supplied with seafood..."
Author/creator: Kyaw Thein Kha
Language: English
Source/publisher: "The Irrawaddy" Vol. 18, No. 9
Format/size: html
Date of entry/update: 08 September 2010

Title: Â‘Sickening’ Film on Plight of Burmese Migrant Fishermen
Date of publication: November 2008
Description/subject: A documentary film showing how Burmese seamen aboard Thai fishing boats are abused, beaten and even murdered is now available for viewing on the Internet... "The 10-minute film, titled “Abandoned, not Forgotten,” was released on the official Web site of the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITWF), whose General Secretary, David Cockcroft, described it as “a sometimes sickening but very necessary addition to the evidence that many Burmese citizens forced to flee their country are being appallingly treated.”..."
Language: English
Source/publisher: International Transportworkers' Federation via "The Irrawaddy" Vol. 16, No. 11
Format/size: html
Alternate URLs: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=deCo_ZBSk-U
Date of entry/update: 16 November 2008

Title: The Mekong Challenge - Underpaid, Overworked and Overlooked: The realities of young migrant workers in Thailand: Vol. 2 (3) - The Fishing Sector
Date of publication: 13 December 2006
Description/subject: Conclusions: 4.1 Indications of labour exploitation The findings clearly show that being forced to work is not uncommon in the fishing sector. About a fifth of migrants have either previously experienced being forced to work or are currently being forced to work. Migrants working on fishing boats, female workers in fish processing and children tend to experience forced labour more than male workers in fish processing and adult workers in general. The findings show that employment aboard fishing vessels often means working in extremely poor conditions, far worse than those in the fish processing sector. It is no surprise that migrant workers who are being forced to work are more likely to end up working aboard fishing boats. Being undocumented makes migrants even more vulnerable to forced labour. Physical and verbal abuse by employers is common in the fishing sector, and alarmingly this seems to be more commonly faced by child workers (aged under 15). While migrants work under poor conditions, almost half of them feel they can't leave their job because of certain constraints, mostly relating to fear of arrest by the police. Migrants under 15 years of age pointed to such constraints to a greater degree than adult migrants. Somewhat surprisingly, registered migrants feel there are more constraints preventing them from leaving their current employment than unregistered migrants. About two fifths of registered migrants fear arrest by the authorities if they leave their job. This implies that being registered does not help all migrants feel any safer. The fact that up to two thirds of registered migrants do not have control over their documents explains in part why registered migrants are still worried about getting arrested. Keeping hold of the originals of migrants' documents not only reflects a means through which employers can prevent workers from switching jobs, but it also highlights employers' ignorance of the right migrants have to hold onto their own documents. Some employers who keep migrants' documents openly said they did not want migrants to act, "as if they were Thai nationals who could independently go anywhere, or leave their jobs if they are not happy with them". This clearly shows that many employers feel migrants should not be treated the same as Thai nationals. It is consistent with the results from the survey, which show that only half of the employers surveyed agree that migrants should have the same rights as Thai workers... 4.2 Legal status and registration A migrant worker's legal status does not fully guarantee his or her safety from exploitation at the destination, however, it does, to a large extent, reduce the possible scope of exploitation. Being undocumented, for example, appears to increase the chance that a migrant worker would be exploited at work. Studies reveal that compared to registered migrants, unregistered (undocumented) migrant workers tend to receive lower wages, work for longer hours, start work earlier and have less rest time than their documented counterparts. A far higher proportion of migrants employed on fishing boats are unregistered than those employed in fish processing. They live and work in vulnerable conditions party because of their undocumented status. Although both employers and migrants in general have positive attitudes regarding registration, there are a number of difficulties. Migrants cross the border into Thailand all the time, however, the registration period is fixed. Therefore, hiring undocumented migrants is still common since employers need to hire workers and migrants are readily available to work, no matter what their legal status happens to be. Although arranging for registration is the employers' responsibility, some employers seem to be ignoring this important step. As for migrants, it is not clear whether migrants are fully aware that this step is the responsibility of their employers. Nevertheless, knowing their rights and the employer's responsibility does not guarantee that migrants' rights will be fulfilled as the migrant workers are unlikely to act without strong support from the Thai government... 4.3 Working conditions Most migrants work in very poor conditions. They work for 12 hours on average, start working early, even before 4 am on days when there is a heavy workload, and almost half only get half an hour or less break time per day. While almost 80% have regular days off per month, less than a tenth are paid for these days off. Given the nature of the work in the fishing sector, it is understandable that some migrants may need to start working very early, however, working such long hours should be deemed unacceptable, as should night work for children. About a fifth of migrants work over 15 hours a day, which is intolerable for a normal person. As well as long working hours, evidently the minimum wage is not commonly applied when hiring migrant workers. In addition, if migrant labourers work for more than eight hours a day, this does not guarantee they receive wages at a rate above the minimum. More than half the migrant workers who work for more than eight hours a day still receive less than the minimum wage. Migrant workers employed on fishing boats receive particularly low rates of pay. Most jobs for migrant workers in the fishing sector are insecure due to variable work schedules and pay methods, such as profit-based systems or piece rates. Most migrant workers are treated the same as casual workers with no benefits. Migrants employed on fishing boats clearly work in inferior conditions, in nearly all aspects, when compared with migrants employed in fish processing. Jobs on fishing boats are less attractive than in fish processing factories because the nature of work is tough, dangerous and it is lonely being far away from family. Fishing boat employers explained that they often had to take desperate steps to try and recruit workers, despite offering incentives, such as payments in advance. Despite such incentives, it still seems as though jobs aboard fishing vessels are the "last resort" for migrant workers. In light of this, migrants working aboard fishing vessels may be those who have nowhere else to go, or those who have fewer job opportunities, such as unregistered migrants or child workers. This could easily force these workers into more vulnerable situations than other migrant workers... 4.4 Child labour Most of the children in this survey seem to be working under the "worst forms" of child labour. Work on fishing boats by its very nature may be considered a worst form and therefore should not be performed by children under the age of 17 years in accordance with ILO Convention 182. In fish processing, where children work for long hours or start before 6am, this might also be considered a worst form of child labour. Otherwise, under regulated conditions, children aged 15 and over may work in fish processing factories. Addressing the worst forms of child labour in the fishing sector needs an immediate response. Migrants under the age of 15 made up 15% of the fishing sample despite the fact that this contravenes Thai labour law (and the ILO Convention 138 on Minimum Age which Thailand has ratified). Although very few employers openly admit they prefer to employ children, employers implicitly expressed a preference to hire children because they are fast workers, obedient and cheaper than adult migrants. While employers see the benefits of hiring younger migrants, they do not fully see the responsibilities. Some employers do not view child workers as "real" workers, but more as children simply helping out their parents. However, the migrant survey clearly shows children are not simply acting in support roles. In fishing, children are working even longer hours than adult workers whilst receiving less support and lower pay... 4.5 Support mechanisms At destination, family and relatives are central support figures for most migrants, this is especially the case for child workers and migrants employed in fish processing. Migrants employed on board fishing boats depend more on their workmates and friends and less on family members and relatives. This is due to the unique physical environment of working on fishing boats and spending long periods at sea. Attaining a better education may help reduce the risk for migrants of being trafficked. However, migrant children have few prospects to attend school while working in Thailand given their long daily working hours. Very few migrants currently attend school and less than a fifth of migrants reported that their employers permit child workers to attend school. In Thailand, part of a solution to address the isolation facing migrants has been for NGOs to tap into and strengthen migrants' sense of community.40 However, very few migrants working in the fishing sector currently participate in any type of group in their community. Encouraging migrants to be part of a community organization might be worth further exploration because most migrants express an interest in joining a group or club, particularly with regard to the subject of health issues.
Language: English, Thai
Source/publisher: International Labour Organisation
Format/size: pdf (English - 524K; Thai - 554K)
Alternate URLs: http://www.ilo.org/public/english/region/asro/bangkok/child/trafficking/downloads/vol2-fishing-thai...
Date of entry/update: 03 May 2008

Title: Trawling Troubles
Date of publication: November 2004
Description/subject: Life on a Thai fishing boat isn’t all plain sailing for Burmese crews... "When 29-year old Win San signed on as a boatswain on a Thai fishing trawler he looked forward to a profitable voyage in the Andaman Sea off the coast of his native Burma. Instead, he ended up in an Indonesian jail, accused of illegally fishing in that country’s waters. Saphan Plah wharf (upgrading) where Burmese enter into Ranong. Win San was held for one month, then deported to Thailand. It could have been worse—the skipper of the boat, his assistant and chief engineer, all Thais, were sentenced to two years in prison. Win San’s experience is typical of the hazards faced by Burmese migrants who work in the fishing industry based in the southern Thai port Ranong, just across the Pachan River from Burma’s Victoria Point (Kawthaung)..."
Author/creator: Aung Lwin Oo
Language: English
Source/publisher: "The Irrawaddy" Vol. 12, No. 10
Format/size: html
Date of entry/update: 31 January 2005