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Independent, democratic fishers’ union officially launches in Thailand with global union, NGO and industry backing

Today the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) officially launched the Fishers’ Rights Network (FRN) to combat abuse and exploitation in the Thai fishing industry.

The launch establishes FRN as the only independent and democratic fishers’ union in Thailand with endorsement from global union federations, national union centres in the United States, United Kingdom and Australia, maritime unions from around the world, domestic unions in Thailand, NGOs and Thailand’s biggest seafood processing company Thai Union.

Johnny Hansen, Chair of the ITF Fisheries Section today congratulated the fishers on taking the step to form FRN: “On behalf of the ITF, I congratulate FRN, their members and their committee. This is a significant day, these fishers are standing up, defending their fundamental labour and human rights, and driving material change for the lives of all fishers in Thailand.”

The pervasive use of trafficked, forced and bonded labour in the Thai fishing industry, together with dangerous working conditions, long hours, and a lack of legal protections for fishers has been well publicised and the source of international condemnation.

“I was a fisherman and seafarer in Norway for 13 years and am now the President of the Norwegian Seafarers Union. The widespread exploitation of fishers in Thailand and the stories that the fishers have told me about the conditions that they’re forced to endure are inhumane compared to international labour standards,” said Hansen.

“This exploitation has been exposed for years. The EU and US governments have both denounced and penalised the Thai Government for its repeated failure to stamp out illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing.

“We’ve been on the ground for 14 months working with hundreds of migrant fishers from Cambodia and Myanmar, and despite international pressure and Thai labour law reform, they’ve told us that little has changed. Labour and human rights abuses remain ingrained in the industry.

“The lessons from countries with unionised fishing industries, is that without enforceable rights at the workplace and the strength that comes from being represented by a union, labour rights violations and the mistreatment of Thai fishers will continue.

“FRN is building organising capacity and alliances with industry stakeholders across the country and around the world. FRN has vowed to campaign until the fundamental labour rights of all fishers in Thailand, including the right to form, join and be active in their union, are respected.”

The ITF has committed to support FRN in building a union that will fight to improve the wages, conditions and labour rights of all fishers in the Thai fishing industry.

Fishers’ Rights Network demands:

  • The elimination of passport, pink card, work permit, agent, broker and recruitment fees.
  • Increases in fishers wages and improvements in working conditions and labour rights of all fishers in the Thai fishing industry.
  • Providing all fishers with written contracts in their own language.
  • Ensuring that every fisher has access to basic first aid training and access to a comprehensive medical kit on board each vessel.
  • Every vessel to have an emergency medical procedure in place.
  • A vessel Code of Conduct in place for all vessels operating in Thai waters.
  • The Thai Government ratifying ILO Conventions 87, 98 and 188 and amending their Labour Law to allow migrant workers the rights to freedom of association and collective bargaining and to form and be active in their union.

For more information visit justiceforfishers.org or contact:
Luke Menzies, ITF Asia Pacific | menzies_luke@itf.org.uk | +61 433 889 844
Ussama Kaewpradap, Fishers’ Rights Network | +66 61 795 0447

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