NHRC strive towards ‘Work in Fishing Convention’ goal in protecting migrant fishermen’s rights

The NHRC urged Taiwan to meet the standards set forth by the C188 Convention and protect the rights of migrant fishermen. (Photo courtesy of Shutterstock)

TAIPEI (The China Post) — The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC, 國家人權委員會) under the Control Yuan launched a series of “Taiwan Human Rights PLUS” events, the first of which is a report on migrant fishermen’s rights which was discussed on Tuesday.

The event discussed the issues migrant fishermen face while out at sea and the need for policy improvement on human rights protection.

Commission member Wang Yu-ling (王幼玲), pointed out that the Control Yuan had investigated six major human rights violation incidents towards migrant fishermen in the past years, and concluded six main problems.

First, Wang remarked that most migrant fishermen have long working hours. Second, sometimes their salaries are not paid in full.

Wang also pointed out that the living conditions on the boats need to be improved and added that sometimes the food and water provided onboard is insufficient.

Fifth, the stay at sea is sometimes far too long, making it impossible for migrant fishermen to contact their families regularly. Last but not least, she pointed out that the “differential treatment” caused by laws and regulations that are sometimes applied differently based on whether the fisherman is employed in Taiwan or not.

In addition, she noted that as fishermen hired outside of Taiwan are not protected under the Labor Standards Act (勞動基準法), Taiwan should still establish a minimum benchmark that would meet human rights standards.

She added that the working conditions cannot be completely decided by the market, and noted the necessity of revising existing regulations to narrow the gap between the Labor Standards Act and the C188 “Work in Fishing Convention.”

She suggested that wages should refer to the minimum wage adjustment mechanism, and should be gradually increased.

In addition, Taiwan should implement the principle of “direct payment and employers should manage attendance records with technology to set clear working hours and ensure that fishermen get adequate rest.

As for social insurance, Wang said that the current commercial insurance plan for fishermen hired outside of Taiwan is not enough to cover them should an incident occur, meaning that employers may still seek compensation from fishermen if they were involved in an accident.

Therefore, she recommends including them in social insurance.

The C188 Convention states that for fishing vessels with a length of more than 24 meters or vessels that stay at sea for more than three days on average, vessel owners should establish plans to prevent occupational hazards, industrial injuries, and occupational diseases.

The Convention also stipulated that fishermen should have access to appropriate medical care and corresponding compensation in accordance with national laws, a point which she hoped the Executive Yuan would include in the “Fishery and Human Rights Action Plan” (漁業人權行動方案).

As for safety equipment and basic training, the C188 Convention stated that the owner of a fishing boat must provide appropriate personal protective clothing and equipment to the fishermen on board, ensure that the fishermen receive basic safety training recognized by competent authorities, and ensure that the fishermen have sufficient and reasonable knowledge of the equipment and methods of use before using the equipment or participating in related operations.

Wang remarked that according to the European Union, the fishing industry has the highest occupational safety risk, and the Control Yuan’s most recent inspection found that many fishermen did not have adequate protective clothing; therefore, she believes this should be addressed and remedied.

At the end of the report, Wang also suggested that government agencies communicate more with non-governmental organizations (NGOs), understand and cooperate with each other, discuss the protection policy of fishermen’s human rights, and jointly improve the rights and interests of fishermen.