For Immediate Release
Boston - Boston fishing and labor advocates, teachers and community members today joined Taiwan’s migrant fishers at the Seafood Expo North America to call on big seafood brands to take responsibility for their supply chains and ensure fishers’ fundamental labor rights at sea.
Fishers spoke out about the Wi-Fi Now for Fishers’ Rights at Sea campaign and why having Wi-Fi communication is vital to protecting their rights.
“Conditions are very tough on the high seas. We need Wi-Fi to communicate with our labor organizations and families. This is how we will protect our rights and our mental health and ensure we are getting fair pay and treatment. We are asking seafood companies, governments and vessel owners to ensure we have rights on the job and a way to talk to the outside world when we’re at sea,” said Edi Kasdiwan of the Indonesian Seafarers Gathering Forum (FOSPI), who traveled to Boston to attend the Expo.
Faith, labor and community leaders from the Northwest Atlantic Marine Alliance, the Boston Teachers Union, Boston Seafarers Mission, UFCW Local 1445, MassCOSH, Catholic Labor Guild, North Shore Labor Council and other groups joined migrant fishers who work on Taiwanese deep-sea fishing vessels and other US and Taiwanese allies at the Expo. They called out the big seafood companies that make claims of a fair and safe supply chain but take little responsibility when it comes to ensuring that fishers in their supply chains work under international labor standards.
At sea for up to a year, workers are isolated and unable to communicate with their family, labor organizations, service providers, or state officials. The fishers have launched a global solidarity campaign to call for Wi-Fi on every vessel in the Taiwanese distant water fleet as a critical necessity to ensure workers’ rights under international labor standards. They are fighting for the right to organize and to end forced labor, violence and health and safety violations on their ships.
Taiwan has the world’s second largest distant water fleet, with more than 22,000 crew, the majority being migrant workers. Without access to Wi-Fi onboard fishing vessels, workers are isolated and unable to communicate with their labor organizations, service providers, state officials or their families.
Many workers have reported harrowing conditions aboard these vessels, including insufficient drinking water and food, sanitation problems, lack of onboard safety measures, high recruitment fees that put workers in debt, arbitrary wage deductions, unilateral contract termination and deportation without due process, as well as egregious abuses such as forced labor, physical abuse, murders, and disappearances at sea.
In a recent incident reported by the Yilan Migrant Fishers Union, fishers on a vessel called the Shunjie– operating in the Tonga Islands without Wi-Fi equipment– were forced to work 20 hours a day and wrap wounds from their work with wire tapes because there were no bandages. The fishers said the captain scolded them when they were ill and asked for medicine. After months under these conditions, the fishers were only able to reach out for help when they docked and fellow fishers shared their Wi-Fi connection.
The fishers have come together to call on the U.S., Japanese and Taiwanese governments, vessel owners, seafood brands and investors to recognize their right to the ILO’s fundamental rights. Workers are looking for dialogue with companies to find solutions.
“We are in Boston to hold the world’s biggest seafood companies responsible for their supply chains. Fishers are workers who deserve rights on the job. Taiwan’s migrant fishers have launched a global campaign for that right and it’s time for these brands and retailers to come to the table with fishers and ensure that vessel owners respect their rights. These global buyers have the power to improve conditions and ensure communications access for workers in distant-water fleets,” said Kimberly Rogovin, Senior Seafood Campaign Coordinator, GLJ-ILRF.
The fishers have organized their international campaign with U.S., Taiwanese and Indonesian allies, including Indonesian Seafarers Gathering Forum, or Forum Silaturahmi Pelaut Indonesia (FOSPI), Global Labor Justice - International Labor Rights Forum (GLJ-ILRF), Taiwan Association for Human Rights (TAHR), Stella Maris Kaohsiung, Humanity Research Consultancy (HRC).
Global Labor Justice – International Labor Rights Forum (GLJ – ILRF) is a non-governmental organization that works transnationally to advance policies and laws that protect decent work; to strengthen freedom of association and workers’ ability to advocate for their rights; and to hold corporations accountable for labor rights violations in their supply chains.