TAIPEI - Earlier today, migrant fishers and key allies in the “Wi-Fi NOW for Fishers’ Rights” campaign, which is led by the Indonesian Seafarers Gathering Forum (FOSPI), Global Labor Justice - International Labor Rights Forum (GLJ-ILRF), Taiwan Association for Human Rights (TAHR), Stella Maris Kaohsiung, Serve the People Association (SPA), and Humanity Research Consultancy (HRC), met with the Premier of the Republic of China (ROC) or Taiwan, His Excellency Chen Chien-jen, to share fishers’ first-hand experiences working in Taiwan’s distant-water fishing fleet and to present their proposed solution to improve working conditions in their industry — mandatory Wi-Fi on board all 1,100 Taiwanese distant-water fishing vessels.
Migrant fishers working in Taiwan’s distant-water fleet are calling for mandatory Wi-Fi on vessels to reduce forced labor risks and to ensure fishers can access fundamental labor rights without fear of retaliation. Every year, Taiwan’s distant-water fishing industry exports roughly 1 billion USD of distant-water fishing products, including tuna and squid, to major global markets. Evidence-based reports show that forced labor is present on Taiwanese fishing vessels, and in 2022 the United States (US) government included fish from Taiwan in its “list of goods and their source countries which it has reason to believe are produced by child labor or forced labor in violation of international standards.”
"We stand at the crossroads of a pivotal moment in the lives of migrant distant-water fishers, who tirelessly work on Taiwanese vessels, contributing not only to the nation's economy but also to the global seafood industry,” said Mudzakir Achmad, Chairman of Indonesian Seafarers Gathering Forum (FOSPI), which represents migrant fishers in Taiwan’s distant-water fishing industry. “We thank His Excellency Chen Chien-jen for his willingness to listen to us, and we hope that he will support us in our petition for mandatory and regulated Wi-Fi access on all vessels. For us, Wi-Fi is not a luxury but our only means while we are working at sea to connect to our families, to address issues in real-time, and to seek help when needed. It represents a lifeline for those who endure the hardships of distant-water fishing.”
At the meeting, migrant fishers and their allies delivered to His Excellency Chen Chien-jen a petition with over 13,000 signatures supporting the call for mandatory Wi-Fi, including from 1,000 migrant fishers themselves and from more than 10,000 online supporters.
The “Wi-Fi NOW for Fishers’ Rights” campaign is also seeking the inclusion of mandatory Wi-Fi in the labor chapter of the US-Taiwan Initiative on 21st Century Trade, which is currently under negotiation. “Our appeal for mandatory, secure, and cost-free Wi-Fi access for fishers on every Taiwanese distant-water fishing vessel aligns with Taiwan's own commitments to address forced labor risks in this industry and to comply with International Labor Organization (ILO) Convention 188 on Work in Fishing," said Valery Alzaga, Deputy Director of Global Labor Justice-International Labor Rights Forum (GLJ-ILRF).
To guarantee that Wi-Fi is accessible for fishers and supports fishers’ labor rights, migrant fishers and their allies are calling for mandatory Wi-Fi to meet the following key criteria:
- Accessibility for all fishers on board;
- Costs of Wi-Fi are not passed on to the fishers;
- Data privacy protections to ensure the confidentiality of fishers’ communications and prevent retaliation;
- Reasonable and transparent rules for when and how fishers use it consistent with occupational safety and health for all workers; and
- A conflict resolution pathway agreed with vessel owners to remedy violations without retaliation.
The campaign has also called on corporations in or connected to Taiwan’s distant-water fishing industry to participate in a roundtable with industry, labor, and government to discuss Wi-Fi implementation, leading towards a pilot program on several vessels that can inform implementation across Taiwan’s fleet. “Global seafood brands and retailers sourcing from Taiwan should join us to address abusive labor conditions for fishers in their supply chains. Otherwise, these corporations risk continued exposure to forced labor import bans and other similar legal consequences,” said Alzaga of GLJ-ILRF.
Petition (English) - https://secure.avaaz.org/campaign/en/wi_fi_on_board_loc/
Petition (Mandarin) - https://secure.avaaz.org/campaign/ct/wi_fi_on_board_loc/
Petition (Indonesian) - https://avaaz.org/campaign/id/wifi_on_board_id/
Petition (Japanese) - https://secure.avaaz.org/campaign/jp/wi_fi_on_board_asia_1/
GLJ-ILRF is a non-profit public-interest organization dedicated to achieving dignity and justice for workers worldwide. GLJ-ILRF focuses on enforcing labor rights and promoting decent work conditions consistent with best practices and International Labour Organization (ILO) standards in the low-wage sections of global supply chains such as commercial fishing. GLJ-ILRF engages in research, policy work, advocacy, and education of the public and consumers.