A DRAFT bill for the better protection of fishing-vessel crews sailed through the National Legislative Assembly (NLA) yesterday.
NLA members voted unanimously to endorse the Bill on Labour Protection in the Fisheries Sector, which the government said would bring the conditions on fishing vessels up to par with the C188 Work in Fishing Convention.
The new law will apply to large commercial vessels, not small fishermen.
Only fishing vessels that go out to sea for more than three days at a time and exceed 26.5 metres in length, or those that venture beyond Thai waters for three days will be subject to the law.
The bill requires owners to ensure accommodation, food, safety, welfare and work conditions on their boats are in line with seven related laws, including the fisheries law, labour relations law and compensation law. Thailand ratified the C188 earlier this month.
Many fishing operators have been protesting over the past few years against the ratification of C188, claiming that its requirements are too strict and unrealistic.
For instance, they said the requirements to provide one bedroom and toilet for every four workers, and for each vessel to include a library, a fitness room and a recreation room were too expensive to meet.
Thai authorities, however, have said that the C188 measures would be implemented to match the Thai context, with a focus on providing fishing workers with decent working conditions, fair working hours, decent accommodation, food, water and medical care.
Thailand’s fishing industry has been suffering from a serious labour shortage, with workers complaining about harsh and often brutal work conditions. According to the Labour Rights Promotion Network, fishing-vessel workers earned just Bt5,000 per month in 2011 and rarely got the 1 per cent commission per catch they were promised.
Even more worrying were findings that fishing-vessel captains often paid guards to attack those who disobeyed their orders and even abandoned some disobedient workers on small islets as punishment.