Many migrant fishers live in tiny, unclean spaces with no showers, Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Jason Hsu (許毓仁) and the Yilan Migrant Fishermen Union said yesterday, calling on the Ministry of Labor and the Fisheries Agency to improve their work conditions.
Union secretary-general Allison Lee (李麗華) said that on a recent visit to a fishing boat together with Hsu, she found that the migrant fishers lived in extremely cramped spaces.
“I could not believe what I saw. It could not even meet a person’s most basic needs,” Lee said.
Photo: Huang Yao-cheng, Taipei Times
The toilet stall was so small that users could not stand up and there was no shower or hot water, she said.
“Many boats do not have any showers or toilets. So when crew members need to take a shower, they just go to the deck and scoop up water from the sea or use tap water at harbors,” she said.
“I do not believe that anyone would like taking a shower in public, not to mention that there is no hot water in the winter,” she said.
While there are shower facilities at local fishers’ activity centers in Keelung, and Yilan and Penghu counties, which they would be able to use between fishing trips, local associations require that migrant fishers pay for their use, she said.
“Why would migrant workers have to figure that out on their own? Their employers should arrange that for them,” she said, urging the agency to intervene.
Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Chen Man-li (陳曼麗) said that she was particularly concerned about the safety of migrant workers on typhoon days, when they are often required to stay on their boats, which are moored.
The agency and the ministry should take measures to improve migrant fishers’ work conditions and living environments, Hsu said.
They should also step up labor inspections of fishing boats and clarify their responsibilities in areas where overlaps occur to avoid inefficiency due to confusion, he added.
The US Department of State has urged Taiwan to better protect migrant fishers’ human rights for five consecutive years in its annual Trafficking in Persons report, Hsu said.
The EU has threatened to impose sanctions on Taiwan within a month if no improvement is made, he said
“It is very embarrassing that this is happening in Taiwan,” Hsu added.
About 20,000 registered migrant fishers work offshore and the agency has 130 inspectors who visit their fishing boats for regular and unscheduled inspections, Fisheries Agency Director-General Huang Hung-yan (黃鴻燕) said.
While small fishing boats tend to offer poor living conditions, the agency has offered incentives for boat owners to replace their vessels with newer ones, he said, adding that employers should pay for migrant fishers’ use of shower facilities.
Labor laws apply to migrant fishers when they work onshore and the Workforce Development Agency would enforce the law if any employer or employment agency is found in breach, Workforce Development Agency Deputy Director-General Tsai Meng-liang (蔡孟良) added.
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