Press Release : Thai Labour Minister Briefing on Labour-related Issues in Thai Fisheries and Seafood Processing Sectors
On 15 February 2018, Police General Adul Sangsingkeo, Minister of Labour of the Kingdom of Thailand, gave a briefing to foreign and Thai media on the progress of labour-related issues in both Thai fisheries and seafood processing sectors.
The Minister reaffirmed Thailand’s commitment to combatting human trafficking in a holistic manner ranging from policy and legal reforms to implementation, redress and victim protection. Close cooperation has also been forged with all concerned stakeholders, such as civil society organisations, International Labour Organization (ILO), the European Union (EU) and neighbouring governments. This effort results in the overall improvement of the labour management in the fisheries sector. Moreover, the Ministry of Labour of Thailand and the EU have recently established a channel of communication and the cooperation with the EU has played a major part in Thai labour policy reforms.
The Royal Thai Government has emphasized the importance of effective law enforcement, and has put into place a stricter vessel inspection regime. A Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) handbook for vessels inspection has also been developed. PIPO (Port in-Port out) centres continue to look out for irregularity among fishing vessels coming in and departing from Thai ports.
Moreover, capacity building programmes for law enforcement agencies have also been intensified. With the cooperation of the ILO, 178 labour inspectors have undergone training courses to bring them up to the latest standard. In 2017, the number of labour inspectors has increased to approximately 1,500 officers with a goal of increasing that number to 1,692 this year.
More stringent law enforcement in the past two years has resulted in the prosecution of 4,240 cases of fishery-related crimes and labour law violations, out of which, 85 cases were later investigated and prosecuted for human trafficking crimes.
The Thai authorities also aim to legalise all migrant workers, by encouraging them and their employers to undergo the proper registration process. This will allow them to be fully protected under Thai law. At present, there are approximately 3.6 million migrant workers in Thailand. Of this total number, about 2 million workers entered into the workforce illegally. However, after the ongoing process of registration, currently only 800,000 workers are still waiting to complete their nationality verification process. The Minister believes that these migrant workers will have their nationality verified by 30 June 2018.
Thailand is in the process of drafting the “Prevention and Elimination of Forced Labour Act” to be in line with the Protocol to the Forced Labour Convention (P29), which will be a stand alone legislation, and the work in fishing law to be in line with the Work in Fishing Convention (C188). Thailand is also working on the legislation on collective rights and collective bargaining including the extension of the recognition of labour rights to be in line with the ILO Convention No. 98.
In addition, Thailand has put into place various measures to prevent migrant workers from being exploited, such as:
– A requirement that standard employment contracts must be done in two languages, one of which must be the language that the employee understands;
– The employees must be allowed to keep their contracts with them;
– A requirement that the standard employment contracts for fishery workers must stipulate that the employers have to pay their workers monthly wages via bank transfer. Currently, 5,000 fishery workers have been reported to receive their payment by this method;
– The compulsory registration of recruitment agencies to better regulate the movement of migrant workers in order to prevent exploitation by recruitment agencies or brokers;
– Allowing migrant workers to change employers;
– A revision of the labour regulations to prohibit employment of children under 18 years of age in dangerous workplaces including the fishing and seafood processing industries.
Currently (as of February 2018), 128,669 workers are employed in the fisheries sector. 57,781 of them are Thai nationals in possession of seaman books and 70,888 are migrant workers in possession of seaman books. As for the seafood processing sector, in December 2017, 222,274 migrant workers were employed in the said sector.