Fishing companies falling short on labor insurance for migrants

06/29/2020 08:13 PM
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CNA file photo
CNA file photo

Taipei, June 29 (CNA) Only around half of foreign crewmen on Taiwanese fishing boats are covered under the country's mandatory labor insurance program, a gap that may still take a while to close.

According to the country's labor laws, migrant fishermen have to be enrolled in Taiwan's labor insurance program by the time they start their first day of work, Huang Chin-yi (黃錦儀), division head at the MOL's Bureau of Labor Insurance, told CNA.

Labor insurance offers coverage for occupational injuries and can also provide retirement benefits should a person work in Taiwan for a long enough period of time.

Yet out of the 12,097 migrant fishermen in Taiwan -- 9,074 from Indonesia, 1,613 from the Philippines, 1,379 from Vietnam, and 31 from Thailand -- only about 6,000 are currently covered by labor insurance, according to government statistics as of the end of May.

Despite the problem, the government has so far seemed slow to enforce the law, preferring instead to inform and persuade employers of their obligation.

The Bureau of Labor Insurance may become a little more forceful when it holds information sessions at seaports around Taiwan in the second half of the year to inform employers that they must enroll migrant fishermen in the program.

"We will inform the employers that they need to enroll their migrant fishermen in the labor insurance program, and if they still refuse then we will fine them," Huang said.

Fines will be four times the amount that should have been paid, Huang said.

The high percentage of uninsured migrant fishermen stems largely from their lack of familiarity with their labor rights and reliance on their employers for their welfare, said Father Gioan Tran Van Thiet, an assistant parish priest at St. Christopher's Church in Taipei.

Thiet, who visits migrant fishermen in Yilan every week, said in some cases employers focus on profits and their catch, and leave administrative duties to the workers' brokers, and the failure to apply for labor insurance falls through the cracks.

"There are also times when an employer actually knows that they need to apply for labor insurance for their migrant fishermen, but they just don't want to do so," Thiet said.

Father Gioan Tran Van Thiet (right) gives a migrant fisher masks in Yilan
Father Gioan Tran Van Thiet (right) gives a migrant fisher masks in Yilan

Employers are sometimes not eager to pay the premiums, and some migrant fishermen do not feel they are in danger and prefer not to pay for insurance as well, some observers contend.

The Labor Insurance Act requires employers to pay 70 percent of the insurance premium, while the insured worker is to pay 20 percent and the government pays the remaining 10 percent.

The 20 percent paid by the worker is usually deducted from his or her salary.

Whether the government will follow through on efforts to persuade employers to change their ways will determine if more migrant fishermen become insured as required.

Huang said information sessions are scheduled in Yilan's Toucheng Township on Aug. 12, and Penghu on Sept. 11, while events are currently being planned for Pingtung and New Taipei in October and November.

Beyond the threat of fines, she said the employers will also be told that if their uninsured migrant fishermen suffer an accident at work, they will be responsible for all necessary payments, Huang said.

(By William Yen)

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The wreckage of a bridge collapse in Yilan
The wreckage of a bridge collapse in Yilan's Nanfang'Ao fishing port that claimed the lives of six migrant fishers
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