NGOs Urge Thai Government to Ratify C188, Not Bow to Industry Pressure

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Forced LaborHuman TraffickingLaw & PolicySupply ChainWorker Empowerment

Twenty-eight NGOs — including Freedom United — have issued a joint statement urging the Thai government to continue with its plan to ratify ILO C188, the Work in Fishing Convention, despite attempts to derail the process.

The National Fishing Association of Thailand (NFAT) has vocally protested against ratification of C188, saying its labor standards are too strict. For one, NFAT wants the industry to be exempt from child labor laws that currently prohibit anyone under 18 from working in the fishing industry — illustrating a clear disregard for child safety.

Fish Information & Services reports:

Environmental Justice Foundation [one of the 28 NGOs] informs that the Thai government has already made strong moves towards ratifying the convention, holding meetings and public hearings on the topic, but, the NGO points out that it has recently come under pressure from the NFAT to drop it.

“We commend the Thai government’s commitment to this process so far and urge it to ratify the agreement by the end of 2018. This convention is one of the most tangible measures available to preserve and elevate workers’ rights and would demonstrate Thailand’s leadership in combatting labour abuse and exploitation in its fishing industry,” says EJF Steve Trent, one of the statement’s signatories.

The NGOs say that efforts to reject the convention by NFAT are sadly unsurprising given it has reneged on previous promises to cooperate with the government to eliminate human and labour rights abuses in the fishing industry.

The NGO statement further adds that by ratifying C188 Thailand could help alleviate its current workforce shortage in the fishing industry.

Fishermen are especially vulnerable to forced labor and human trafficking given the isolated nature of their job, and investigative reporting has exposed severe exploitation of migrant workers in the Thai fishing industry.

Given the abuses, neighboring countries that send migrant workers have been reluctant to enter formal agreements with Thailand over the flow of workers. By ratifying C188 and guaranteeing labor protections in law, Thailand may be able to court migrant workers back to its fishing industry.

As Fish Information & Services explains, the 28 NGOs believe that, “Together with the adoption of other key ILO measures such as those guaranteeing freedom of association and collective bargaining, ratifying the Work in Fisheries convention would show that Thailand is committed to treating its workforce well.”

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