April 18, 2018
Moving to Electronic Payment in the Thai Fishing Industry
The ILO Project Ship to Shore Rights Project aims to reduce forced labour, child labour and other unacceptable forms of work in fisheries and seafood process industry, and progressively eliminate the exploitation of workers, particularly migrant workers, in these sectors, and thereby improve compliance with fundamental rights at work.DOWNLOAD (ENGLISH)
From 2016-2017, there were more than 302,349 registered migrant workers in the Thai fishing and seafood processing industry that contributed $6.6 billion dollars to Thai exports in 2014. The Thai fishing industry alone registered more than 57,000 migrant fishers in 2017 on approximately 6,700 commercial fishing vessels. The Project’s 2017 baseline study of working conditions in the industry documented various wage and pay violations in the industry, including minimum wage violations for one-third of fishing and seafood processing workers surveyed, illegal deductions, and wage withholding—a forced labour indicator for the ILO. Workers in some parts of the Thai fishing industry, in particular, are not paid regularly or in full. “(These findings are detailed in the Ship to Shore Rights working conditions baseline study, appended here as Appendix A. “These violations may have a combination of causes—habit, an effort to hold onto fishers who might otherwise work elsewhere, debts to employers, wage theft, and weak enforcement of wage protections.
It is vital to prevent worker exploitation in the form of wage violations. Strengthening payment mechanisms and active enforcement of wage regulations can help ensure that workers are fairly paid according to the laws. The Ministry of Labour Ministerial Order of 1 November 2017 requiring electronic payment of fishers via bank accounts is an important step in this direction. And it is not a new idea: many migrant workers in the seafood processing industry in Mahachai, for example, are paid regularly through electronic payroll systems using payment/account cards issued directly by banks or via their employers.
As part of a key Project objective—stronger Thai labour inspection and enforcement action—and in support of the Government’s proposed order, the Project agreed to undertake research work on the transition to electronic wage payment for fishers.
This paper’s concluding section contains recommendations for the transition from cash to electronic payment in Thai fishing specific to the Project’s partners—Royal Thai Government and the Ministry of Labour in particular, vessel owners and their industry associations, worker organizations and civil society, and banks. The leading and most urgent recommendations to the Project’s partners are for the Royal Thai Government and fishing industry associations. The Government (MOL, CCCIF) is urged to:
- Organize port campaigns with the National Fisheries Association of Thailand among vessel owners on new legal requirements and set-up of electronic payment systems
- Organize port and social media campaigns (with worker organizations where possible) among 60,000+ migrant and Thai fishers on use of accounts and ATMs
- Win commitments from major banks to waive fees on migrant fisher accounts, install ATM machines in PIPO areas still without coverage, and add Cambodian and Vietnamese language options at ATMs
- Enforce actively using electronic payment records to end minimum wage violations, wage withholding, illegal deductions, and undocumented advances.