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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 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:

  1. Accessibility for all fishers on board; 
  2. Costs of Wi-Fi are not passed on to the fishers; 
  3. Data privacy protections to ensure the confidentiality of fishers’ communications and prevent retaliation;
  4. Reasonable and transparent rules for when and how fishers use it consistent with occupational safety and health for all workers; and
  5. 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/

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GLJILRF 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.

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: May 30th, 2019

CONTACT: Nazly Sobhi Damasio, nazly@globallaborjustice.org

New Study Exposes Empty Living Wage Promises: Global Garment Brands Get Richer While Continuing to Pay Poverty Wages

From Jennifer (JJ) Rosenbaum, U.S. Director of Global Labor Justice:

Important new research from the Sheffield Political Economy Research Institute (SPERI) at the University of Sheffield — Corporate Commitments to Living Wage in the Garment Industry underscores what Global Labor Justice’s partner the Asia Floor Wage Alliance has evidenced through grassroots people’s tribunals in India, Sri Lanka, Indonesia and Cambodia. Despite growing profits for corporate executives and shareholders, global garment brands are paying workers on their global supply chains — who are predominantly women — poverty wages.  This report follows groundbreaking research by SPERI Director Genevieve LeBaron on the failure of corporate audits and corporate social responsibility to improve conditions for workers in the global garment supply chain.  

The SPERI report exposes the growing practice of global garment brands who are using living wage pledges as a public relations tool without actually paying workers higher wages. Professor LeBaron concludes: “There is little evidence that corporate commitments to living wages are translating into meaningful change on the ground. As such, consumers are purchasing products they may believe are made by workers earning a living wage, when in reality, low wages continue to be the status quo across the global garment industry.”

Earlier this month, H&M shareholders voted down a shareholder resolution creating a living wage fund for excess profits so that H&M could meet its living wage commitments.  

Global Labor Justice stands with the Asia Floor Wage Alliance in its demand of brands to take responsibility and pay the difference in the supplier paid national minimum wage and the living wage calculated in order to meet the basic needs of garment workers and their families.  

Global Labor Justice challenges global garment brands to meet their human rights obligations and pay their workers a living wage. Poverty wages are a gender justice issue that impacts more than 60 million garment workers world wide, the majority who are women. Poverty wages force women to work excessive overtime in order to supplement wages as little as a third of the minimum living wage calculation, leading to health and welfare impacts for women garment workers and their families. Advancing living wages through a gendered lens is a pillar of Global Labor Justice’s campaign: Gender Justice on Garment Global Supply Chains: An Agenda to Transform Fast-Fashion.

 

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Global Labor Justice (GLJ) is a US based strategy hub supporting transnational collaboration among worker and migrant organizations to expand labor rights and new forms of bargaining on global value chains and international labor migration corridors.

 

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