Look into modern-day slavery in GenSan
We fisherfolk are alarmed by the horrible and slave-like conditions of Filipino fishworkers employed in purse seine and handline fishing vessels in the tuna capital, General Santos City. The city employs up to 200,000 workers in the tuna industry, generating 65 percent of the country’s annual tuna catch.
We learned that, aside from the lack of security of tenure and fixed wages, fishworkers in General Santos endure hazardous working conditions, with tuna operators not complying with occupational health and safety standards.
Fishworkers are being hired informally both in purse seine and handline fishing vessels; they do not sign any formal contract or written agreement with the employer. Their salaries do not meet the regional minimum wage declared by the regional wage board; the pay usually depends on the income of the operation even if the workers toil hard in fishing expeditions that last months.
It has been the practice of vessel owners to persuade fishworkers with the promise of a good salary and good working conditions at sea. But once on board the ship, fishworkers find themselves in a death trap. Worse, when an accident happens at sea, the vessel owners deny employer-employee relations and do not own up to any accountability for their workers. When fishworkers are apprehended in foreign waters for illegal fishing, employers usually abandon the detained fishers and do not help in the repatriation.
Filipino fishworkers do not deserve this kind of treatment from big fishing operators; they are not slaves but productive forces in the tuna sector who greatly contribute to the industry.
We ask the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources and the Department of Labor and Employment to conduct regular inspections of tuna fishing vessels and the conditions of the fisherfolk they employ.
FERNANDO HICAP, national chair,
Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas, [email protected]
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