Good steps are changing the culture  

 

Culture change happens when labour agents get paid by employer not the worker 

One of the biggest dangers to forced labour is when a ‘labour agent’ charges the powerless worker fees that they cannot pay up front but must pay off as they work. Massive interest is charged and they get trapped. Thai Union and some other fish processors have a policy that they pay the labour agent fee, thus saving the worker from being trapped in a debt bondage and making the recruitment process more transparent. 

 

Culture change happens when Government systems are in-place and enforced 

A new program introduced by the Thai Government, ‘The Royal Ordinance’ specifies that every Thai-flagged fishing vessel operating outside Thai waters must have a fisheries observer stationed on board to ensure that fishing operation complies with international standards and fisheries regulations. The observer’s main tasks include to deter illegal labour practices on board. In addition, the presence of the observer has been set up  28 Port In – Port Out (PIPO) Control Centres  in 22 coastal provinces nationwide. Thai fishing vessels are required to report to PIPO Centres for inspection every time they port out and port in. For port-out inspection, PIPO officers carry out physical and documentation checks, such as the vessel registrar, fishing license, fishing gear, tracking equipment and the crew’s work permits and qualifications. For port-in inspection, PIPO inspectors crosscheck the fishing logbook record with tracking data to identify the seamen onboard to ensure that they correspond to the crew list submitted when the vessels port out. These strict PIPO procedures are designed to prevent the use of illegal workers on board. To date there are only 22 inspectors so they are making only a small dent. 

 

There is still a lot of room for this system to be fully enforced. With expansion, this could be a culture changer 

 

Culture change happens when we learn to work together. 

The UN Global Sustainability Goals 8.7 gives a clear “good” objective: 

Take immediate and effective measures to eradicate forced labour, end modern slavery and human trafficking and secure the prohibition and elimination of the worst forms of child labour, including recruitment and use of child soldiers, and by 2025 end child labour in all its forms 

Alliance 8.7 is one example working together. Australia through Australia’s Ambassador for Human Smuggling and Human Trafficking, Dr Geoff Shaw, chairs the Alliance of 8 countries and 144 organisations. Target 8.7 of the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals calls for us to work together to end these unacceptable violations of human rights. The goal of the Alliance is to catalyse action on Target 8.7. They focus on scaling up solutions that work, driving innovation, and leveraging and maximizing the impact of resources.  

 

A second example is the Thai Seafood Working Group, an internationally recognized network of nearly 60 human rights, labour, and environmental from more than a dozen countries. STOP THE TRAFFIK participates in the network 

 

The Working Group has produced significant outcomes in its five years, including: 

  • Coordinated successful international effort that stopped the Thai government from pursuing a plan to use prison labour on fishing vessels - it culminated in an international media campaign that was covered in BBC World Service, USA Today, Fox News and Time. 

  • Intervention with the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC), the largest seafood certification label, to re-evaluate its effort to add social standards to its environmental certification scheme 

  • Led a letter sign-on effort that garnered 110 sign-ons from prominent organizations around the globe in support of human rights activist Andy Hall as he was fighting criminal defamation charges for documenting labour exploitation  

 

Culture change happens when transparency and traceability are practiced 

Thai Union says:  

With traceability in place, we can track every product – from catch to consumption – and we can ensure our suppliers abide by the same sustainability commitments as Thai Union. Through transparency, combined with our broad range of initiatives to improve the sourcing of seafood, we are delivering against the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal to protect and nurture life below the water.  

 

Some seafood processing companies are following Thai Unions policy of knowing the complete supply chain. Transponders on boats that show accurately where boats travel are also key to knowing where they have been and any connection to other ships and boats. Fisherman are often “sold” from one boat to another at sea. 

 

Greenpeace published a report accusing Thai fishing vessels of moving to more distant waters, out of range of the Thai authorities. In the same report they However, they described the Thai Union announcement, to allow independent observers and tracking devices on boats, as “huge progress”. Greenpeace will monitor the implementation. It is hoped that others in the industry will follow Thai Union’s example. 

 

Fuzz Kitto, fuzz.kitto@stopthetraffik.com.au Co-Director STOP THE TRAFFIK Australia.