Migrant fishermen get pay rise
Rule changes include wages must be paid directly to fishermen rather than through an agency, and workers must have medical insurance
By Yang Yuan-ting and Jake Chung / Staff Reporter, with Staff Writer and CNA
The minimum monthly wage for migrant fishermen working on Taiwanese-owned deep-sea fishing vessels is to be increased by $100 starting in July, the Council of Agriculture (COA) announced yesterday.
Cabinet on Thursday approved the minimum wage hike as part of a wider plan to improve working conditions for migrant fishers, the council said.
The plan is to raise the monthly minimum wage for this category of migrant fisherman from $450 to $550, the COA said, adding that there were about 21,000 migrant workers on board Taiwanese-owned deep-sea fishing vessels.
Wages must be paid directly to fishermen rather than through an employment agency, and workers have the right to contact the COA if their employers do not comply with these regulations, said the director general of the Chang Chih-sheng Fisheries Agency (張致盛).
As part of this plan, the government has made it compulsory for migrant fishermen on board these vessels to have medical insurance coverage of at least NT$300,000 (USD 10,253), while their insurance coverage against accidents increased from NT$1 million to NT$1.5 million.
In addition, crews would no longer be allowed to stay at sea for more than 10 consecutive months.
The plan was designed to improve livelihoods and human rights in the industry, the COA said.
To that end, the COA said it would step up inspections of Taiwan’s roughly 1,100 distant-water fishing vessels and encourage owners to install closed-circuit television systems on board to enable better monitoring of working conditions. .
Port inspections would be conducted not only on Taiwanese-flagged fishing vessels, but also on vessels owned by foreign-flagged Taiwanese, known as flags of convenience, he said.
Taiwan Deepsea Tuna Longline Boatowners and Exporters Association President Lin Yu-chih (林毓志) said yesterday the new rules have given fishing boat owners pause, with some wondering if they should continue in the industry. .
High salaries for crew members on deep-sea fishing expeditions already weigh heavily on owners, as salaries account for 30% of overhead costs, Lin said, adding that the COVID-19 pandemic and the Russian war -Ukrainian have increased the expenses of the owners, in particular for the fuel.
Before the pandemic and the war, refueling at sea usually cost around US$100 per ton of fuel, but, for example, it now costs US$1,380 per ton of fuel to resupply in Argentina, he said. declared.
Every fishing boat owner – regardless of the size of the vessel – loses money the moment the vessel leaves port, he said.
Adding to the expense, deep-sea fish, such as tuna, are not fetching ideal prices, and in the case of restaurants that closed all last year, fish are being sold at rock-bottom prices, a he declared.
However, despite the difficulties, Lin said he would support the project as the industry wants to expand overseas.
Moreover, he is touched by the hard work of the government, he said.
ACO Minister Chen Chi-chung (陳吉仲) said the council will offer grants as part of the industry’s transition.
A total of NT$640 million would be used to promote and uphold human rights in the industry, while the COA would spend NT$2 billion over four years to improve the rights of crew members, said Chen said.
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