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Government-NGOs-Industry Unite to Improve Working Conditions for Migrant Fishers on Distant Water Fishing Vessels

  • Date

    2024.03.29.

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    997

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Government-NGOs-Industry Unite
to Improve
Working Conditions for Migrant Fishers on Distant Water Fishing Vessels
- Made port calls within one year of initial departure mandatory, improved passport safekeeping and banned any illegal charging of recruitment fees and gurantee deposit.
- Established victim identfication and victim-centered monitoring scheme such as anonymous bulletin board, and strengthened sanction against violators, including granting reduced quota.
 
 
The Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries (Minister Kang Do-Hyung) announced its establishment of a Plan for Further Enhancement for Working Conditions of Migrant Fishers on Distant Water Fishing Vessels, herein after the Plan, in cooperation with the Advocates for Public Interest Law (APIL), the Environmental Justice Foundation (EJF), an international NGO, and distant water fishing industry.
 
The characteristics of distant water fishing, which entails long-term fishing operation in the ocean, makes it difficult to conduct on-site inspections on working conditions and report human rights violations right away. In December 2020, the government prepared and implemented the improvement plan through agreement between labor and management to strengthen the labor rights of migrant workers on distant water fishing vessels, which resulted in considerable improvements, including applying the minimum wage standards and charging recruitment fees to vessel companies. However civil society has continued to raise the need for further improvements in working conditions of migrant fishers, criticizing that human rights violations on distant water fishing vessel still remain.
 
In response, the Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries(MOF), NGOs (EJF, Public Interest Law Center APIL), and the distant water fishing industry jointly established the Plan after having multiple meetings to update improvement of working conditions for migrant fishers of distant water fishing vessels.
 
Considering the characteristics of the distant water operation, the Plan focuses on preventing any possible human rights violations, as imposing substantial sanctions on violators, and strengthening victim protection.
 
In specific, Any deduction or withholding of the fishers’ wages under the pretext of savings or recruitment fees. In addition, Comparative study on the wage standards and payment system between Korea and other leading countries will be designed at the meeting of the Tripartite Council to promote upgraded conditions for the migrant fishers’ wages scheme including improved standards on wages and payment, and recognition of fihsers’ career history and upgraded bonus(scheduled in the second half of 2024).
 
Moreover, Tuna long-liners’ port of call will therefore be enforced during their sailing itinerary within not exceeding one year after their initial departure for the fishing operation. With the regard to the period for rest, the provision of the employment contract will demonstrate that migrant fishers are entitled to have extra hours for rest in return for their excessive work. Also, some questions of the survey conducted upon their disembarkation will be created to ask whether they were rightly provided with the fisher’s entitlement during the work, a minimum of 10 rest hours per day (including consecutive 6 hours). Substantial sanctions such as reduced quota will be imposed on the violators.
 
Due to the difficulty in attesting to an alleged violation against the ban on confiscation of migrant fishers’ passports, a personal locker, a storage with individually-allocated area, will be installed at the public space, such as dining room or lounge.
 

Social media platforms can be used to conduct random inspection on the working conditions and an anonymous bulletin board will enables migrant fishers to report any discriminatory treatment and human rights abuse onboard. Vessels suspicious of repeated violations of human rights protection will be blacklisted, which results in random inspection conducted jointly by the MOF and NGOs. consultation and cooperation with the stakeholders of the distant water industry will be sought for phased application of the C188, Work in Fishing Convention 2007 of the International Lbor Organization(ILO), to the related industry.
 
 
* An international agreement (adopted in June 2007, and entered into force in November 2017) that guarantees rest periods and limits the maximum duration of voyages, has been ratified by a total of 21 countries (as of 2023). Neighboring countries such as Korea, Japan, China, and Russia have not yet ratified the Convention.
 
 
Minister Kang Do-Hyung of Oceans and Fisheries highlighted that “this is an internationally best practice and holds significant meaning as it is the first time that the government, NGOs, and the industry have jointly formulated a plan through communication.” He also added that "(the Ministry) will closely monitor the implementation of the Plan aimed at improving the working conditions of migrant fishers, and strengthening the protection of their rights, and will strive to ensure that all seafarers work in a safe environment without any discrimination."
 
"We view the government's proactive engagement with stakeholders in formulating the Plan as a positive trend, and we look forward to continued consultations to ensure active implementation of the Plan on the ground its tangible impact on enhancing human rights of migrant fishers." said Ms. Jung Shinyoung, CEO of APIL, and Mr. Steve Trent, CEO of EJF. They added that “we also anticipate continuous improvement on the matters that were not included in the Plan this time.”
 
 
Reference   Main content of Plan for Further Enhancement for Working Conditions of Migrant Fishers on Distant Water Fishing Vessels
 
 
  < Guideline >  
   
Substantiating full-scale implementation measures by introducing fair and objective assessment scheme to rebuild international confidence in the Korean distant water fishing industry; and
Preemptively minimizing the risk to create or interpret as forced labor in the employment and management procedures with a well-organized monitoring system commensurate with the characteristics of distant water fishing

Reforming means of passports safekeeping, preventing deductions or withholding of wages due to the illegal practice due to charging of recruitment fees, prohibiting long-term boarding, upgrading monitoring system, and enhancing victim protection, etc.
1. Improving working conditions to enhance human rights protection
 
(Wages) Comparative study on the wage standards and payment system between Korea and other leading countries will be designed to promote upgraded conditions for the migrant fishers’ wages scheme*(from the second half of 2024). and deductions or withholding of wages due to the illegal practice due to charging of recruitment fees have been prohibited(since 2023 November).
 
* included payment of bonus, advance payment of miscellaneous income, and recognition of the career history for salary upgrade.
 
(Voyage length) Catch quota will be restricted against vessels that violate such rule. To relieve the distress from long stay at the sea tuna long-liners’ port of call* will be enforced during their sailing itinerary within not exceeding one year after their initial departure for the fishing operation(from the first half of 2024) . In case of any infringements, reduced quota to catch will be imposed.(from 2025)
* Generates additional cost (KRW 170 million per vessel)
 
(Rest periods) Some questions of the survey conducted upon their disembarkation will be created to ask whether they were rightly provided with the fisher’s entitlement during the work, a minimum of 10 rest hours per day (including consecutive 6 hours) and the standardized employment contract will include specifying a provision for extra hours for rest in return for their excessive work.(from the first half of 2024).

 
(Prohibition of discriminatory treatment) Migrant and Korean fishers are equally being entitled to the cost of food. And with provision of drinking mineral water, both fishers would be equally granted.(from the second half of 2024).
 
 
(C188 - Work in Fishing Convention 2007) The ratification of the Convention will be considered upon consultation with stakeholders such as the fishing industry and cooperation for phased application of the Convention will be sought.
 
 
2. Preventing forced labor through better management practices
 
 
 
(Passport safekeeping) Since it is difficult in some cases to attest to an alleged violation against the ban on confiscation of migrant fishers’ passports, a personal locker, a storage with individually-allocated area, will be installed at the public space, such as dining room or lounge (installation will be completed by 2024, individuals keep their own key to the locker). image01.png
 
- Through revising Seafarers Act, the scope of application will be extended ,encompassing more fishing-related persons (e.g.captain and crew, local and Korean recruitment agencies) along with the vessel owners, and the level of penalty will be increased in the event of noncompliance. (proposed to the National Assembly on December 28
* The financial penalty imposed on perpetrators under existing Article 50-2 falls on up to KRW 2 million (approx. USD 1,500).
“Vessel owners shall not take away any identification documents including passports from the fishers under the pretext of safekeeping.”
 
(Recruitment Process) Any illegal charging of recruitment fees and guarantee deposit has been prohibited and foreign agencies ,perpetrating the rules, will be subject to the termination of contract(from the second half of 2024); and to be blacklisted to notify their government for supervision.
 
* In the case of distant water fishing vessels, the company is responsible for all costs, including recruitment-related fees of migrant fishers.
 
- Noncompliance with the rule of contract’s termination will bring unfavorable dispositions to Korean agencies receiving migrant fishers and fishing companies that are ruling out from the future contract for the former (from the first half of 2025); and granting reduced quota to catch for the latter (from the first half of 2026).
 
3. Government-leading and victim-centered monitoring scheme to identify violation
 
(Online platform) An easily accessible online platform ,providing an anonymous bulletin board which allows fishers to freely and anonomously report grievances and seek consultation, will be established in a public agency(Korea Seafarers' Welfare & Employment Center,from the first half of 2024,)
 
(Social Media monitoring) Monitoring on the working conditions will be conducted by workers’ Social Media and survey on what happen on. Any suspicious or wrong cases identified by the inspection are subject to the detailed examination and its follow-up measures (from the first half of 2024).
 
(Strengthening in-depth investigation) Vessels suspicious of repeated violations of human rights protection will be blacklisted(from the first half of 2024), which results in random inspection conducted jointly by the MOF and NGOs (from the second half of 2024).
 
(Internet accessibility) Fishers shall be provided with the designated timeslot guaranteed to spend their time (e.g. within 3hrs per day, from the first half of 2024). Vessels will be progressively upgraded to the latest internet network
 
4. Strengthening penalties against violations and implementation monitoring
 
(Sanctions against violators) Any distant-water fishing company and agencies reported to violations of the Seafarers' Actand infringements of the Plan will be imposed on the raised level of penaties for substantiating full-scale implementation measures.
 
- Distant water fishing companies with Infringements of port calls within one year of departure, Non-compliance with the termination of contracts with recruitment agencies that violate human rights (one-strike-out), Repeated human rights violation(three times) will be subject to reduced catch quota
 
(Partnership with Social society) Regular meeting* with the civil society and NGOs will be held(scheduled in the first half of 2024). Communication channel will be established where countries in charge review the recruitment process and take decisive steps together against the noncompliance behaviors (from the first half of 2024).
* The "Implementation Monitoring Council" (quarterly) will be operated to review the implementation of the Plan on the spot.