On 19 February 2018, Thai Government established “the Working Group on Labour Relations Promotion in Sea Fishing Operation” with the aim of improving labour relations systems in sea fishing operations and promoting employees’ collective bargaining and organisations. The Working Group comprises representatives from both Thai and international organisations and NGOs, such as the Life Quality Promotion Network Foundation, the Stella Maris Sri Racha Center, the Environmental Justice Foundation, Human Rights Watch (Asia and Pacific Region), as well as the Committee on Labour Reconciliation of Thailand and the International Labour Organization.
The Working Group’s mandate is to make the necessary measures and recommendations to promote labour relations in sea fishing operations in accordance with Thailand’s international obligations. For example, establishing a labour network in the fisheries sector is helpful in providing advice on workers’ rights to obtain better bargaining capacity and establish a dialogue platform for employers and employees where workers in the fisheries sector can better voice their concerns and protect their rights accordingly. The Working Group’s recommendations will be submitted to the Sub-Committee on Resolving Illegal Fishing Problems.
The inaugural meeting of the Working Group was held on 28 February 2018 and resulted in a proposal to establish at least 22 provincial networks of sea fisheries workers in every coastal province of Thailand. The first five pilot coastal provinces for the establishment of the said networks are Chonburi, Samut Sakorn, Samut Songkhram, Samut Prakan and Trang.
These networks marked the first step towards acknowledging the organisation of employees within the fisheries sector. Members of the networks are representatives of employees, both Thai and migrant, from each fishing vessel, while representatives from the Fisheries Association of Thailand, government agencies, and NGOs will act as consultants. These networks would help workers to better self-regulate and increase their bargaining power to negotiate with employers, encourage dialogue to reduce conflict, give access for employees to make claims for benefits and welfare other than those specified by law, as well as act as a complaint channel.
In addition, there is also a plan to promote the establishment of a national network of sea fisheries workers which will bring together members of the provincial networks of sea fisheries workers in the future.
Apart from this, in preparation for the ratifying process of the ILO Right to Organise and Collective Bargaining Convention 98 by September this year, Thailand is in the process of drafting the Labour Relations Act B.E…. (….) and the State Enterprise Labour Relation Act B.E. …. (….) allowing migrant workers to become members of labour unions. The public hearings from stakeholders on these two Acts have already taken place.