Engaging trade unions on the protection of Indonesian fishers from forced labour

News | 23 December 2021
ILO recently met with Indonesian trade unions to find better ways to protect Indonesian fishers, including migrants, from forced labour.

The consultation with Indonesian workers’ organizations on how to eliminate forced labour in the fisheries sector was organized as part of the Accelerator Lab 8.7 programme (ACC Lab 8.7), a new ILO Global Programme aiming to drive progress towards the Sustainable Development Goal target 8.7 to end forced labour, modern slavery, human trafficking and child labour.

According to ILO estimates, as many as 25 million women, men and children globally have been coerced or deceived into jobs they cannot leave. The fishing sector, as well as onshore seafood processing, is one of the top sectors where the risk of forced labour is especially high.

Most migrant workers, which constitute an important part of the fishing industry, are not part of a trade union and often not included in workers’ organizations outreach programmes.

Alix Nasri, Global Coordinator of the ACC Lab 8.7 Programme, stressed how workers’ organizations are crucial in the fight against forced labour. She said it is essential to develop a common strategy to eliminate forced labour in the fishing sector. “We need to understand the current challenges faced by workers’ organizations in combating forced labour in fisheries, how to strengthen the role of workers’ organizations in reaching out to workers and advocating for a better protection, and how the ILO, through the Accelerator Lab 8.7 and its development cooperation, can effectively support workers’ organizations in their effort to help achieve SDG Target 8.7,” she added.

Ravindra Chanaka Samithadasa, ILO’s Senior Regional Workers’ Activities Specialist, encouraged trade union confederations to develop a joint agenda for the fishing sector based on Indonesia’s commitment to achieve SDG Target 8.7. “We need an integrated process and coordination mechanisms within and among confederations,” he said. “The initiatives by Indonesian trade unions to end forced labour in the fishing sector can also be shared with other countries faced with similar problems.”

Trade unions’ representatives presented a wide range of views on what it will take to achieve SDG target 8.7 in the Indonesian fisheries industry:
  • Yuherina Gusman, representative of the Confederation of Indonesian Trade Union (KSPI), stated that "illegal recruitment still is a major issue for Indonesian fishers as unscrupulous recruiters often recruit fishers without a written employment contract, exposing workers to hazardous working conditions and violations of labour rights”.
  • Yatini Sulistyowati from the Confederation of Indonesian All Trade Union (KSBSI) stressed the importance of focussing on the whole fishing supply chain from sea-based to land-based activities, including outreach to those working on the high seas. “We often see young children working on fishing boats without proper safety gear, low wages and no social security, particularly in the artisanal fishing fleet,” she said, urging the need for establishing a joint inspection mechanism across all sub-sectors of the fishing industry.
  • Ilyas Pangestu from the Confederation of Indonesian Moslem Trade Union (K-Sarburmusi) urged the need for the development of a roadmap for the inspection of working and living conditions on board fishing vessels, including using digital technologies to detect violations.
  • Tri Ruswati, representative from the Confederation of All Indonesian Trade Union (KSPSI), underscored the importance to improve the legal framework, pointing out overlaps of recruitment regulations between the Ministries of Transportation and Manpower. “This leads to poor monitoring of private employment agencies and contract deception. As a result, unpaid wages, excessive working hours, poor working conditions and safety issues continue to be a problem in the sector.”
  • Ahmad Mustaqim from the Confederation of the National Trade Union (KSPN) stressed that Indonesia needs to enter into additional bilateral labour agreements with destination countries of migrant fishers and build on the current experience with South Korea. “We need such BLAs to improve the monitoring and detection of labour abuses and to develop more relevant pre-departure training programmes for prospective migrant fishers,” he added.
The Accelerator Lab 8.7 programme aims to accelerate replication of promising practices and identify new solutions to end forced labour and child labour globally. In its initial phase the Accelerator Lab 8.7 is focusing its interventions in the fisheries sector.