(The Nation Thailand/ANN): Thailand’s fishing industry, which is notorious for its harsh and often brutal working conditions, is suffering from a serious labour shortage.
Yet, fishing-vessel owners are enraged that the government plans to ratify a convention that will require significantly better conditions for workers.
For instance, the C188 Work in Fishing Convention will guarantee that workers on fishing vessels get at least 10 hours daily or a minimum of 77 hours of rest per week.
Once Thailand ratifies the C188, it is likely that fishing-vessel crews will be provided with protective gear and given access to the social-security scheme.
The new list of benefits for fishing vessel crew runs long, and is upsetting fishing operators. The biggest point of contention is the proposed requirement that one bedroom and toilet per four workers is provided on fishing boats.
The convention also demands that each vessel include a library, a fitness room and a recreation room.
“It will be difficult to reconfigure all fishing boats when these requirements take effect. I have to tell you that a wrong adjustment could sink a boat,” National Fisheries Association of Thailand’s president Mongkhon Sukcharoenwattana cautioned.
He said that he had enlarged his fishing vessels and learned that they could no longer cope with the wind.
Mongkhon pointed out that ratifying the C188 could very well destroy the country’s fishing industry.
“The government must be thinking that it will be easy for us to make adjustments. But in reality it isn’t. Aside from technical issues, we also have budget problems. The reconfiguration will take a lot of money,” he said.
In response to the news, fishermen in 22 seaside provinces earlier this month threatened to stop fishing.
“The permanent secretary for Labour Ministry now assures us that there is no plan to ratify the convention anytime soon,” Mongkhon said.
More than 16,000 fishing vessels are affiliated with his association.
With the industry trying hard to recruit 53,000 new workers, Mongkhon’s association is pushing the government to let them hire illegal migrants and register them in a bid to ease the labour shortage.
Labour Minister Pol General Adul Sangsingkeo, however, has said that only some 11,000 workers would be allowed to renew their work permits between August 20 and September 30 provided they express their intention to continue working in the industry.
“We will then try to fill vacant positions by importing workers through our memoranda of understanding with Myanmar, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam,” he said.
Sompong Srakaew of the Labour Rights Promotion Network (LPN) said neighbouring countries were usually cautious about sending their workers to Thailand for jobs on fishing vessels.
“They are worried about their welfare,” he said.