Foreign crew on deep-sea vessels want to be covered by labor law

Foreign fishermen hired to work on Taiwan’s deep-sea fishing ships, supported by representatives of a civic group, staged a protest outside the Council of Agriculture (COA) on Tuesday to demand that the Labor Standards Act apply to them.

The Taiwan International Workers’ Association and these foreign fishermen called a news conference outside the COA to draw attention to the lack of human rights afforded foreign fishermen working on deep-sea fishing ships and their desire to be covered by the Labor Standards Act to protect their working rights.

Two fishermen prepared a “sweatshop” seafood soup and presented a petition to drive their point home.

A fisheries official responded, however, that getting these workers included under the labor law would be difficult.

Huang Hung-yen (黃鴻燕), the deputy director general of the Fisheries Agency, said there are currently 10,000 foreign fishermen employed in Taiwan’s near-sea and offshore fishing ships, and they are covered by the labor law because they were hired after entering Taiwan.

But the 18,000 fishermen working on Taiwanese deep-sea fishing boats are hired overseas and generally go directly to where the ship operates, and they are not eligible to be covered by the labor law, Huang said.

Including foreign fishermen working on deep-sea boats under the Labor Standards Act will require consultations with the Ministry of Labor, Huang said, acknowledging that the chances of success were slim.

No country provides similar protections at present, Huang said, noting that in Japan, which has many deep-sea fishing ships, even foreign fishermen hired within the country are covered by separate laws.

The foreign fishermen also said Tuesday that if they were not covered by the Labor Standards Act, the tragedy of Supriyanto, an Indonesian fisherman who died aboard a Taiwanese fishing boat in August 2015, could happen again.

Supriyanto, who was in his 40s, died of septicemia from infected wounds because he was not provided with timely treatment after being physically assaulted aboard the vessel about a month before he died, according to a Control Yuan report.

Supriyanto’s family only received a settlement of NT$100,000 (US$3,098), the protesting fishermen said.

Huang said the ship’s owner was fined NT$150,000, and the case has been reopened and is being investigated again.

If the skipper is determined to have committed the crime, related agencies will provide compensation to the Indonesian’s family in line with the Crime Victim Protection Act.

Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel

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