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Pressure to stamp out forced labour in EU waters

Rob Fletcher
Rob Fletcher
12 May 2017, at 1:00am

A resolution inviting the EU to end forced labour practices in its waters was signed by a coalition of fisheries leaders and maritime workers and employers representatives last week.

Investigations executed by the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) revealed serious infringements of fundamental principles at work and social protection rights of migrant fishers in a part of the EU’s fishing sector. The social partners expect the EU to ensure fulfilment by Member States of their obligations and to adopt guidelines for flag state and port state inspections to prevent such practices.

At its Sectoral Social Dialogue Committee meeting the General Confederation of Agricultural Cooperatives in the European Union (COGECA), the Association of National Organisations of Fishing Enterprises in the European Union (Europêche) and the European Transport Workers’ Federation (ETF) strongly condemned the lack of actions from the EU to implement and enforce international agreements to protect migrant fishers working in EU waters.

The inspections of the ITF found infringements in terms of, among others, intimidation and threats, retention of identify documents, withholding of wages and debt bondage.

Spokesperson of the workers’ representative, Flemming Smidt comments: “In total the violations represent 10 out of eleven indicators of forced labour mentioned in the Guidelines on flag State inspection adopted by the International Labour Organisation (ILO). And these breaches of international agreements that are harming fishermen and put them in inhuman conditions, happen under the watchful eye of the European Union and its Member States. This is completely unacceptable and unworthy for a Union that is condemning in the strongest terms such immoral practices outside EU waters!”

Spokesperson of the employers’ representative, Ment van der Zwan says: “With this joint resolution we give a strong signal to the responsible authorities that we as employers’ and workers’ representatives stand very firm and united in favour of high safety standards for all fishermen and against any practice that violates fundamental principles and rights at work or the flag State’s legislation regardless of a fisherman’s country of origin.”