Taiwan, September 14, 2021 – Taiwan Fisheries Agency has organized an online meeting to discuss the issue of foreign fishers’ salaries. Several NGOs and the Tuna Associations joined the meeting. It was a great opportunity to exchange information on what Stella Maris and the other NGOs found in the field and what kind of solutions might be the best for fishers.
Stella Maris and some NGOs proposed to increase the salary of Sea-Based Fishers working in Taiwan flagged fishing vessels. As stipulated in the Regulations on the Authorization and Management of Overseas Employment of Foreign Crew Members, the standard salary is 450 USD a month. Since the coastal fishers have increased their salary recently (24000 NTD), some NGOs retained that it is also important to raise the standard salary for the Sea-Based Fishers. In response to that, the Taiwan Fisheries Agency is not yet in the condition to decide on the matter.
The meeting also touched on the issue of the method of payment. The Taiwan Fisheries Agency has laid some important points, such as:
- First, the employer must pay the salary directly to the fishers.
- Second, the employer can ask the brokers to pay the salary for fishers. In doing so, they must give a letter of authorization to the brokers, and the brokers must prepare a salary slip for the fishers.
- Third, before the payment of the succeeding month, the employer obliges the brokers to give proof of salary received and the details of salary payment. In addition, the employer must keep the salary slips and the letter of authorization for five years.
- Fourth, if the employer uses another method of payment, all the administrative cost must be shouldered by the employer.
Stella Maris has proposed to transfer the salary directly to the bank accounts of the fishers. For that, fishers must open their bank account before being employed in Taiwan Flagged Fishing Vessels. This method can prevent some issues related to exchange rate, unexplained deductions, delayed payment, etc. In some cases, we find out that the brokers in sending countries decide on their own the exchange rate. As to the difficulty of opening a bank account for the fishers, Stella Maris explained that in the case of Indonesian fishers, it is not difficult to open a bank account in Indonesia.
In the meeting, we also talked about the personal documents of the fishers. The fishers must hold their documents such as passports and other related documents. There is a fear that if they hold the passports, they might lose them or damage them. If the employers want to keep their passport, it is important to have a letter of agreement with the fishers just as usually practiced in the Labor Bureau.
Finally, we appreciate the willingness of the Fishery Agency to listen to the NGO’s point of view and the opportunity to have this important discussion with the Tuna Association. We do hope that this discussion can bring better protection for the rights of the fishers who sail in far-distant seas.