The seafood industry faces a major shakeup in its controversial labour practices, with new measures protecting workers set to be enforced next month.
The move comes as the US prepares to review Thailand's status on the Tier 2 watch list in its human trafficking report due out this month.
Registering workers, issuing employment contracts and prohibiting child and forced labour are among measures agreed upon by the Labour Ministry, the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and seafood and fishing business associations.
ILO programme manager Toumo Poutiainen yesterday said the parties had worked out Good Labour Practices (GLPs) for workers at fishing ports, fish farms, fish factories and fishing boats.
He said GLPs for fishing ports have been drafted and operators have learned them and are trying them out.
The GLPs for workers at fishing ports should be imposed next month.
GLPs for fish farms, fish factories and fishing boats should be enforced officially by June.
Director-general of the Labour Protection and Welfare Department Pakorn Amorncheewin said employers will now be required to provide every worker with contracts with clear details about wages, allowances, welfare and occupational safety and hygiene.
Deputy director-general of the Fisheries Department Cherdsak Wongkamolchoon said the fishing industry and seafood exports make more than 200 billion baht a year.
But the country is under special watch for human trafficking, child labour abuse and forced labour in these industries, he added.
"The GLPs will ease these concerns. There will be employment contracts, boat registrations, lists of fishing crewmen and examination of accommodation aboard boats," he said.
He said tracking devices and telephones have been installed on about 100 fishing boats.
Their crewmen are allowed to phone their families once a month.
Praphan Simasanti, an adviser to the Thai Frozen Foods Association, said medium- and large-scale operators are ready to follow the GLPs.
However, small-scale, coastal fishing operators are yet to be informed of the good practices and would need up to three years to adjust to them, he said.
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- Writer: Penchan Charoensuthipan