Taiwan to enforce migrant fishermen's pay hike: official
Taipei, July 18 (CNA) As the minimum monthly wage for new migrant fishermen working on Taiwan's distant-water fishing (DWF) fleets is increased by US$100 (NT$2,996) this month, employers have until the end of the year to update the salaries of those on old contracts or face penalties of up to NT$250,000 or have their license revoked, according to a Taiwan Fisheries Agency official.
The salaries of the migrant fishermen employed on DWF fleets on and after May 20 will be receiving a monthly salary of at least US$550 starting July, while those employed before that must receive the new minimum by January, Chiu Yi-hsien (邱宜賢), a section chief in the agency's Deep Sea Fisheries Division, told CNA on Sunday.
If the fishermen on older contracts fail to receive at least US$550 as their salary by January, their employers will face penalties of NT$50,000 to NT$250,000 or a maximum penalty of having their operating license revoked for a year, Chiu said.
The minimum wage hike was approved by the Cabinet in April as part of a broader action plan to improve working conditions for migrant fishermen on Taiwan's DWF fleets, according to the Council of Agriculture.
In order to clamp down on employers not willing to follow the new minimum and ensure better labor conditions, the Fisheries Agency is currently recruiting more manpower and hopes to train an extra 79 inspectors by the end of September to increase the frequency of labor checks, Chiu said.
The inspectors will be concentrated at the distant-water fishing ports of Yilan's Nanfang'ao, Kaohsiung's Cianjhen, and Pingtung's Donggang, Chiu said.
"We will definitely do our part. If a fisherman reports any wrongdoings to us, we will definitely hand down penalties because their salary is the most important part and it is the basic protection of their labor rights," Chiu said.
Chiu's statement came following concerns and questions by migrant fishermen at an outreach event held at Haibin Seafood Restaurant near Kaohsiung's Cianjhen Fishing Port on Saturday evening.
"Dialogue with Fishers," as the event was called, was organized by ship-visiting NGO Stella Maris Kaohsiung, and funded by the Taiwan Fisheries Agency and Scalabrini International Migration Network.
The outreach event was attended by 117 migrant fishermen, who were informed of laws and regulations regarding their employment, and also treated to food, singing, opportunities to win prizes, and Indonesian and Filipino cultural dance performances.
Kaohsiung-based Stella Maris Chaplin Father Ansensius Guntur, CS, who led the event, told CNA the purpose of "Dialogue with Fishers" was to help inform the fishermen of their rights and obligations, while also creating a chance for them to raise questions directly to the competent authorities related to their employment so that they can attain correct and reliable answers.
"(It's) to listen to the fishers about their living conditions and the issues they've encountered in their fishing vessel," he said. "By listening to them, we hope that the government can come up with better policies for them."
Other offices and international representatives that attended the event included officials from Tainan's Labor Affairs Bureau, the Manila Economic and Cultural Office Labor Center -- Kaohsiung, the Indonesian Economic and Trade Office to Taipei, and the American Institute in Taiwan's Kaohsiung Branch Office.
There are around 21,000 migrant fishermen employed on Taiwan's DWF fleets, including around 13,000 Indonesians and 6,300 Filipinos, according to Chiu.
Taiwan has one of the largest distant-sea fishing fleets in the world. Rights groups such as Greenpeace and Taiwanese migrants groups have long raised human rights violations on Taiwan-owned vessels including debt-bondage contract arrangements, withheld wages, poor living conditions and physical abuse.
Taiwan's government has been under increased pressure to deal with these problems in recent years after numerous cases of violations were exposed.
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