What do good steps look like?  


As we have been lobbying and working on the development and passing of the Australia Modern Slavery Act, many politicians have responded to the ask for a robust Modern Slavery act with, ‘Well in a perfect world you might be able to include that.’ Our response has been to remind them that people caught in slavery dream of that perfect world! 


At STOP THE TRAFFIK Australian Coalition we refrain from a name and shame approach. Rather we take a name and fame approach! If we only focus on the bad things that are happening that is all that we will see. If that is all we see, then we never get to really understand the good. Yes, we want to highlight the slavery that is happening, where it is happening and what is causing slavery. At the same time, we want people, companies and the whole seafood industry to understand what good looks like. Together we can move towards creating good practice, business models, worker’s human rights and prevent slavery happening and build towards that perfect world! 


Numerous NGO’s/ Civil Society Groups, media and unions as well as ethical companies, have highlighted the realities and extent of slavery in the seafood industry. This has been critical and important and now there is a move to create understandings, on not just that it needs to change, but what is needed for the changes to happen. 


Peter Drucker, the legend in business management and leadership once noted that ‘Mission Statements, good will, policies and strategic plans are good… but culture will eat them for breakfast!’ There are key culture changes happening. Not as fast as we would like and nowhere near as fast as those caught in slavery would like.  


In 2015 the European Union imposed a “yellow card” on Thailand under its illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing framework, threatening to ban Thai fisheries imports if the government failed to clean up its fishing industry, including labour rights violations. The Thai government responded with a program of reforms which included new laws to regulate and improve working conditions, documentation and wages for migrant fishermen. A “port-in, port-out” (Pipo) system was also created to require boats to report for inspections, as well as limiting time at sea to 30 days. These have had some effect, but enforcing the laws and PIPO is taking time – it is a culture change. 


The issue is beginning to be addressed – a key step forward in the industry came when Thai Union, one of the world’s largest seafood conglomerates, said it would overhaul its operations to protect against labour abuses and other bad practices - and it is a massive challenge to establish how many people remain trapped at sea. However, they have tightened all their policies into one program called Seachange  

http://www.thaiunion.com/files/download/sustainability/Thai_Union_2017_Sustainability_Report_Online_Format.pdf . 


On Nov. 30 2018 the Thai Government announced they would be moving to the ratification of the International Labour Organization (ILO) Work in Fishing Convention No. 188, 2007 (C188). This will elevate the standard of labour protection onboard fishing vessels to be in line with the international standard. It will also reduce the risk of labour falling into forced labour situations. This is attributed to the fact that C188 will ensure decent work for fishing workers, including setting the maximum working hours, ensuring quality of accommodation, food, drinking water and medical care, as well as carrying out inspections of working and living conditions on board the vessels. It’s implementation will need to be closely monitored as there is a history of ratifying Conventions and even passing laws but with little implementation. We hope this is a good step forward.  


Good steps have been taken by LRPN led by Sampong to help create and promote a film that highlights a story about slavery in the SE Asian Fishing industry. It follows the work of Patima Tungpuchayakul and documents the horrifying reality of men imprisoned on fishing boats in the Indonesian sea. A short preview can be seen at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t_O5Y8FWXpE . Films like this bring alive and connect us through story and images what has been happening and open our eyes and senses to the realities and can motivate us to take action to help prevent, disrupt and abolish slavery in the fishing sector. 


Fuzz Kitto, fuzz.kitto@stopthetraffik.com.au Co-Director STOP THE TRAFFIK Australia.