Boats need over 40,000 migrant crew
Ministry looks abroad to fix labour shortage
The Labour Ministry will push for a plan to import 40,000 workers from neighbouring countries to solve a labour shortage in the commercial fishing sector.
Labour Minister Adul Sangsingkeo said Thursday that workers from Laos, Myanmar, Cambodia and Vietnam would be targeted under a system of MoUs to ensure they first undergo a state-sponsored screening process.
About 50,000 workers are needed but only 40,000 will be brought in from other countries because a sub-committee formed to handle this issue has agreed to extend the work permits of 10,000 migrant workers already working on boats here by another two years.
They are currently employed under Section 83 of the fisheries law, which allows the Department of Fisheries to register additional foreign workers, he said.
The industry is notorious for hiring cheap but illegal foreign labour. In a bid to clean it up, the government extended a grace period during which undocumented migrant workers could surrender and register legally to work in the country.
As that window closed on June 30, those who failed to upgrade their status now face deportation.
Mr Adul said the fishing operators have until Aug 15 to file official requests for additional workers, for which they will be required to pay fees of 10,000 baht per head.
The sub-committee's decision to extend the work permits will be submitted to the committee on the management of migrant workers and human trafficking in the fishing industry chaired by Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwon, the labour minister said.
Pol Gen Adul said the decision confirmed that only registered migrant workers are allowed to seek employment in Thailand and that the hiring of foreign workers should be carried out through the MoU system.
Mongkol Sukcharoenkhana, president of the National Fisheries Association of Thailand, said he doubted if the fresh push would prove successful in redressing the labour shortage. If it fails, representatives from the fishing sector will meet later to find a new solution, he said.
According to Mr Mongkol, the fishing operators are ready to shoulder the cost of bringing in migrant workers, who are expected to pay for their own travel documents and medical check-ups.
He said the lack of full crews means many fishing vessels can't venture out to sea.
Asked about a planned strike on Aug 8, he said the Labour Ministry would be informed beforehand of any industrial action.
Mr Mongkol said the association wanted Section 83 of the fisheries law to be invoked to solve the labour shortage because it believes there is a large number of illegal migrant workers in the country.
He said the fishing sector has been working to improve employment benefits and working conditions.
Also Thursday, Deputy Prime Minister Gen Chatchai Sarikulya said a plan to buy back 1,300 commercial trawlers to prevent overfishing will likely be considered in the middle of this month.
Once approved, the scheme will be forwarded to the cabinet for approval, he said.