Owner of fishing vessel accused of trafficking laborers agrees to pay partial wages

April 4, 2018

Eight out of 23 fishermen in Ye Township, Mon State have been paid partial wages after submitting a forced labor complaint to the Mawlamyine District Labor Office on March 22nd. The owner of the fishing vessel has agreed to pay the partial salaries of the remaining fishing crew on Friday, according to a source.

Actually, there are nine fishermen on the list to be paid, but only eight of them have received their [partial] wages and one has disappeared. We don’t know where is he and we thought that he may have followed the broker. His [partial] salary of 320,000 kyat (US $240) is being kept by the [Mawlamyine] District Office. Some fishermen did not wait to get paid their salaries by the owner and went back to their villages, as they have had trouble feeding their families,” according to the chairman of Public Constituent’s Student Party U Tun Aye, who is working on behalf of the fishermen.

Last week it was reported that after a year of being forced to work on U Aung Kyaw Soe’s fishing vessel in ill health they learned they would be coerced into another year’s worth of work. On March 11th 2018, the fishermen flagged down a passing boat and asked for help. They managed to escape back to land only to learn that the owner was refusing to pay them their wages as negotiated in their contracts.  

Now there is further conflict among the owner and the fishermen as the owner said he would only pay the professional- and management-level fishermen the same rate as the entry-level fishing crew. An entry-level fisherman’s salary starts around 120,000 kyat (US $90.15) per month, where more experience fishermen earn 200,000 kyat (US $150.25).

U Tun Aye added, “the owner said if the fishermen do not agree with his payment, he would not pay their salaries. The fishermen negotiated within their group and agreed upon a salary of 180,000 (US 135.22) to 200,000 kyat. After they reached an agreement, the owner set the date for payment for April 6th.”

The fishermen report not being allowed to land for an entire year, even if they were ill or involved in an onboard accident. Moreover, the owner has refused to pay for their full year’s salaries after the fishing season ended. It is a huge financial loss for the fishermen who are now struggling to meet their families’ livelihood needs.

The main problem, they say, are the brokers who supply fishing vessel owners with labor.

The broker brought the workers to the owner and then negotiated with the owner to take 400,000 (US $300.51) or 500,000 kyat (US $375.64) of the fishermen’s salaries. Once the fishermen asked for their salaries after the fishing season ended, the owner said he already paid the broker their salaries. The fishermen could do nothing after that. There are a lot of worker’s who face difficulties like this as they have no food and no place to go,” according to Daw San San Tin, vice-chairwoman of the Public Constituent’s Student Party.

She continued, “if the fishermen ask us to help them with the broker or the owner who abuse and take profit from them, we report about it to the authorities. But from experience, we know that the authorities do not take much action on the problem and just inform the owners to avoid this problem in the future.”







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