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U.S. labor official in Taiwan to discuss fishermen's rights

02/27/2024 03:47 PM
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Taipei, Feb. 27 (CNA) A senior United States official in charge of international worker rights is currently visiting Taiwan to show support for the rights of those working in the fishing industry and protections for migrant workers.

Thea Lee, deputy undersecretary for international labor affairs at the U.S. Department of Labor, arrived in Taiwan on Monday for a five-day stay until March 1, according to a travel announcement released by the Bureau of International Labor Affairs online.

In a post on the bureau's X account Monday, Lee was seen meeting with Labor Minister Hsu Ming-chun (許銘春) at Ministry of Labor headquarters in Taipei.

The post came with several photos and a caption that read "head Thea Lee met with Taiwan's ministry of labor where she emphasized the U.S. government's prioritization of workers' rights globally, calling for Taiwan's commitment to improve labor rights compliance."

Taiwan's Ministry of Labor had not make public mention of the meeting as of Tuesday afternoon.

The American Institute in Taiwan, the U.S.' de facto embassy in Taiwan, confirmed Lee's visit.

"During her visit, Deputy Undersecretary Lee will meet with Taiwan interlocutors to discuss a range of labor issues of mutual importance, including workers' rights, migrant workers' protections, the fishing sector, and international labor standards," an AIT spokesperson said.

The Fisheries Agency under Taiwan's Ministry of Agriculture said Lee is expected to visit major Taiwan ports and harbors, but her itinerary will proceed along a "closed-door format," it said, without elaborating.

The U.S. Department of Labor included Taiwan-caught fish on its "List of Goods Produced by Child Labor or Forced Labor" in both 2020 and 2022 after several investigations and reports by international NGOs confirmed the existence of systemic forced labor in the Taiwanese fishing industry.

In response, the Fisheries Agency amended a law called "Protection of the Rights of Foreign Crew Members Employed Overseas by Taiwan's Distant Water Fishing Vessels" in 2022 to raise the minimum monthly salary for migrant fishermen to US$550, from the previous US$450.

The amendment also required employers of migrant fishermen to increase their life insurance coverage to NT$1.5 million, from the previous NT$1 million, and to set up a hotline allowing fishermen to file complaints, according to the agency.

(By Joseph Yeh and Chang Hsiung-feng)

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