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Forced labour in the fishing sector of an Asian country. (Photo: ILO)

Further labour abuse claimed in Asian fishing industry

WORLDWIDE
Thursday, May 19, 2016, 00:50 (GMT + 9)

Workers from the fishing industry in several Asian countries, a significant number of whom are women migrant workers from marginalized communities, suffer from the non-enforcement of legal rights and violations of international labour standards. Low wages, gender discrimination, workplace violence, wage theft, and child and forced labour are some of the most detected issues, according to a new report.

The study, called Precarious Work in the Asian Seafood Global Value Chain, has been released in advance of next month’s International Labor Organization (ILO) conference in Geneva by an international consortium of human and labour rights organizations.

This new report details the multinational scope of worker abuses of the global seafood supply chain, and the solutions the ILO, other international labour watchdogs, trans-national companies and suppliers can take to protect workers in this rapidly-expanding industry.

While 200 countries participate in the seafood global value chain, this report focuses on the industry’s evolution and continued history of violations in Bangladesh, India and Thailand.

“Explosive revelations about the Asian seafood supply chain, specifically the widely-read investigation into slavery in the Thai shrimp industry, have shed new light on this issue,” stresses Anannya Bhattacharjee of the Asia Floor Wage Alliance.

“But our report shows that as harmful as they are, these short-sighted, race-to-the-bottom labor practices do not simply impact wages and working conditions in Bangladesh, Thailand and India. They hurt workers in the United States and other developed countries as well,” the activist points out.

“American seafood processors respond to pressure from international markets by seeking out the most vulnerable workers, and often subject them to brutal exploitation,” states Jennifer J. Rosenbaum, Legal and Policy Director of the National Guestworker Alliance, an American organization dedicated to improving labor and migration conditions for guest workers.

And Rosenbaum adds: “These workers, many of whom are undocumented and cannot access legal protections, routinely face forced labor, threats of deportation, sex discrimination, sexual harassment, and illegally low wages. They need protections for freedom of association and worker voice, as well as the global monitoring and regulation mechanisms the ILO can provide.”

The report includes the following recommendations for the ILO:

  • A binding legal convention regulating the global seafood value chain, including provisions that:
  1. Ensure accountability throughout the value chain;
  2. Address the special vulnerability of migrant and women workers;
  3. Place limits on the use of temporary, outsourced, and self-employed labor that limit employers’ liability for worker protections.
  • The recognition of the right to a living wage as a human right and the establishment of living wage criteria and mechanisms.
  • The expansion of work towards the elimination of forced labor.
  • The promotion of sector-based and transnational collective bargaining.
  • The organization of a Tripartite Conference on the adverse impact of contracting and purchasing practices upon migrant workers’ rights.

This report, written by Shikha Silliman Bhattacharjee and Vaibhav Raaj, will be presented at the ILO in Geneva by the international Asia Floor Wage Alliance, Jobs with Justice (US), National Guestworkers Alliance and the Society for Labour and Development (India).
 


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