Category Archives: MMN Activities

Joint Civil Society Statement concerning Ratification of the Work in Fishing Convention, 2007 (No. 188)

Joint Civil Society Statement concerning  Ratification of the Work in Fishing Convention, 2007 (No. 188)   
 
Fishing workers, through the very nature of their work, are especially vulnerable to human trafficking as well as forced, bonded and slave labour, operating as they do in isolated and hazardous conditions. To protect this vulnerable group, the International Labour Organization (ILO) has established basic standards of decent work in the fishing industry.
 
In Thailand, there are an estimated 4.5 million migrant workers with over 222,000 migrant workers in the seafood sector and approximately 71,000 migrant workers on board fishing vessels. Thailand’s seafood exports are valued at over US$5.8 billion annually, making it the third largest seafood exporter in the world. However, the Thai fishing industry has been responsible for systematic illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing practices, and pervasive, horrific human rights abuses.
 
Over the last five years, both the US State Department and European Commission have issued formal warnings to Thailand about its fishing industry. The US sanction came in the form of a downgrade to Tier 3 in the Trafficking in Persons Report, while the European Commission issued a ‘yellow card’ warning to Thailand on combatting IUU fishing that could lead to a ban on importing Thai seafood products into the European Union. Several non-governmental organizations and prominent international media outlets (such as the Associated Press, New York Times, Guardian, and others) also published critical reports and articles exposing abuses in the Thai fishing industry. The result of this pressure is the Royal Thai Government set about reforming the industry to address the issues of human trafficking, and forced, bonded and slave labour.
 
Ratifying and implementing the ILO’s Work in Fishing Convention (C188) would ensure vulnerable fishing workers are sufficiently protected while they work in one of the most dangerous working environments in the world. The Convention establishes minimum labor standards to improve the safety, health and medical care for workers on board fishing vessels, as well as ensuring they have the protection of a written work agreement and the same social security protections as national workers. The Royal Thai Government has already taken several important steps towards ratification of C188, including holding an initial tripartite meeting as well as numerous public hearings. These consultations have paved the way for the successful ratification of this critical convention in the near future.
 
We respectfully urge the Royal Thai Government and the Ministry of Labor to pursue a robust and ambitious approach to ensure ratification of C188 before the end of 2018.  Efforts to reject the C188 by the National Fishing Association of Thailand (NFAT) are sadly unsurprising given NFAT’s reneging on its previous promises to cooperate with the Royal Thai Government to eliminate human and labor rights abuses in the fishing industry. Specifically, we call on the Royal Thai Government to ensure the key provisions of the Convention are included in any final legislation that the Royal Thai Government adopts.We strongly recommend that protections be preserved that provide for decent working and living conditions for the fishers onboard vessels and social security protections. These provisions are vital in preventing workers from being exploited by unscrupulous employers who pay sub-minimum wages, refuse to ensure overtime is voluntary and compensated, and engage in debt bondage and forced labor. Ensuring fishers are included fully in the social security system is critical to protect them if they suffer an occupational accident or an illness. Furthermore, including these provisions will grant workers much needed statutory social security benefits. Other core principles that need to be maintained in the legislation include ensuring a minimum age for fishers, payment of minimum wages, and enforcing limits on working hours.  Current Thai labor law already restricts children under age 18 from working in dirty and dangerous work, in line with ILO Convention No. 182 on the Worst Forms of Child Labour, which Thailand has ratified. NFAT’s continuing demand for exemptions to the child labor laws in the abusive Thai fishing industry demonstrates shocking disregard for the safety of children. The Royal Thai Government should defend its principled stance and reject any proposals to allow 16-year-olds to work on fishing vessels under any circumstances.
 
Discussions between Thailand and migrant worker origin countries (such as Myanmar, Cambodia, Lao PDR, and Vietnam) aimed at formulating new Memorandums of Understanding between the respective parties have not succeeded in addressing the current labour shortage in the Thai fishing industry. The primary reason is self-evident – the Thai fishing industry has a well-deserved reputation for serious and pervasive labor rights abuses. It is little wonder that several origin countries are resistant to formalizing a flow of workers into Thailand to work on fishing vessels without any certainty about the legal protections and enforcement provided to their nationals going to work on fishing boats. One way of addressing these issues would be to expedite ratification of C188 and formalize a set of labor and occupational protections that would reassure origin country governments that labor standards on board Thai fishing vessels meet international standards. With adequate protections in place for fishing workers, Thailand would be in an excellent position to persuade neighboring governments to allow their nationals to work in the fishing sector, thus addressing the current labour shortage.
 
We are ready to work with the Ministry of Labour, industry representatives, fishers and their representatives, and civil society organizations to ensure that the C188 ratification process and domestic legislation is as effective and as far-reaching as possible. We believe the ratification and full implementation of C188 is one of the most tangible measures available to reduce the likelihood of workers falling victim to human trafficking, forced labour, and exploitative working conditions. For this reason, we urge the Ministry of Labor to persevere in fulfilling our mutually shared goal of protecting workers’ rights in Thailand’s fishing industry.
 
The ratification of C188 would allow the Royal Thai Government to send a credible and powerful message to the international community that Thailand is firmly committed to eliminating human trafficking, forced labour and other forms of exploitation from its fishing industry. Adopting C188 would also give seafood buyers and retailers around the world greater confidence that Thai seafood is ethically sourced.
 
For this reason, the undersigned groups urge individuals, businesses, institutions, and governments around the world to call on the Royal Thai Government to demonstrate its leadership in protecting fishers as well as elevating working and living conditions on Thai vessels through the ratification and implementation of this pioneering convention.
 
Sincerely,
 
Anti-Slavery International
Business and Human Rights Resource Center
CENTRAL
Conservation International
Environmental Justice Foundation (EJF)
Human Rights and Development Foundation (HRDF)
Human Rights Watch  Humanity United Action
International Labor Rights Forum (ILRF)
FinnWatch
FishWise
Focus on the Global South Fortify Rights
Foundation for Education and Development (FED)
Freedom Fund
Freedom United
Green America
Greenpeace Southeast Asia
Labor Safe
MAP Foundation
Mekong Migration Network (MMN)
Migrant Working Group (MWG)
Migrant Workers Rights Network (MWRN)
Raks Thai Foundation
Slave Free Seas
Stella Maris Seafarers’ Centre
Stop The Traffik Coalition
Uniting Church in Australia, Synod of Victoria and Tasmania
Verité
 
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Vacancy announcement: RESEARCH AND ADVOCACY OFFICER

The Mekong Migration Network is looking for a RESEARCH AND ADVOCACY OFFICER to join our team. Please see the job announcement below for details.

The Mekong Migration Network (MMN) in coordination with the Foundation for Migrants from the Mekong Neighbourhood (MMN Foundation) is hiring for the position of a full-time RESEARCH AND ADVOCACY OFFICER. The position requires the successful applicant to be based in the MMN Secretariat office in Chiang Mai, Thailand, and work 5 days (40 hours) a week. There is no special support (i.e. support for relocation costs, etc.) for people applying for this position from overseas or other provinces. This initial contract is for one year (March 2018-February 2019) and is renewable up to December 2020 depending on job performance and availability of funds.

Deadline for application: 10 March 2018

Reports to: Project Coordinator
Job location:
Chiang Mai, Thailand
Salary and benefits: 
Local NGO rate subject to qualifications and experience.
Start date: 
20 March 2018 (negotiable)
Contract duration:
 One-year contract (subject to a 119-day probation period at the beginning of the contract); renewable annually up to December 2020 depending on work performance.

Overview of the Mekong Migration Network

MMN is a sub-regional network of civil society organisations and research institutes working on migration issues in the Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS). MMN’s joint areas of work include advocacy, information monitoring, research, capacity building and networking. Please see www.mekongmigration.org for more information about MMN.

Overview of the Project on Migrant Labour in Informal Sectors

MMN, with support from Swiss Solidar, is currently carrying out a collaborative research and advocacy project focusing on migrant labour in informal sectors in Thailand. The main focus of this project is on migrant labour in agriculture and fisheries, while also examining the impact of more general migration policies on migrant workers in Thailand. The project involves collaboratively conducting research with MMN project partners in respective Mekong countries, organising workshops to enhance the capacity of civil society organisations to advocate for migrants’ rights, developing materials to raise awareness, and organising policy dialogues. The successful applicant will play a key role in implementing this project along with the Project Coordinator based in Chiang Mai. The MMN Regional Coordinator will provide overall supervision of and guidance for the project.

 Roles and Responsibilities:

  1. Research on Migrants in Informal Sectors in Thailand

*Carry out desk research on migrant labour in informal sectors, with a special focus on migrants in agriculture and fisheries, in Thailand.

*Develop a research design, questionnaires and other documents necessary to carry out the MMN collaborative research project on migrants in Thailand in consultation with the MMN project partners.

*Assist the Project Coordinator with following up with the project partners to implement the collaborative research project and provide technical assistance when necessary.

*Assist the Project Coordinator with writing relevant reports.

  1. Organise Project Consultation Meetings and Workshops

*Assist the Project Coordinator with organising relevant meetings and workshops.

*Document discussions during meetings.

*Assist the Project Coordinator with writing reports about the relevant meetings and workshops.

  1. Information Monitoring and Dissemination

*Collect and circulate news related to labour migration in the GMS, with a special focus on migrant workers in Thailand.

*Alert MMN members and the Secretariat when there are urgent issues to which MMN should respond in order to enable MMN to carry out timely advocacy work. 

  1. Advocacy

*Assist the Project Coordinator with formulating MMN position papers, press releases, and other materials necessary to carry out effective advocacy.

*Pro-actively develop the MMN webpage and social media platforms to maximise their usefulness as tools for advocacy and information dissemination.

  1. MMN Webpage and Awareness Raising

*Regularly update relevant sections of the MMN webpage.

*Assist the Project Coordinator with developing materials aimed at raising awareness on key issues (i.e. flyers, posters, other visual materials, etc.).

  1. Other Tasks

*As assigned.

S/he will work as part of a small multi-cultural team and report directly to the Project Coordinator. As an employee of a sub-regional network, the position involves frequent travel.

Qualifications and Experience:

Essential

*Minimum of a Master’s degree in a relevant field, such as development studies, migration studies, gender studies, international relations or law.

*Minimum of 1 year of relevant work experience in a field related to human rights, migration, gender or development

*Fluency in speaking and strong written skills in English

*Strong public speaking skills in English

*Strong research skills

*Strong commitment to and understanding of migration issues in Mekong countries

*Ability to work independently and as part of a team

*Ability to work effectively under pressure and meet deadlines

*Excellent interpersonal and communication skills

*Excellent attention to detail

*Proven computer literacy (Microsoft Word, Excel & PowerPoint)

*Commitment to MMN’s approach and values

*Ability to travel

Desirable       

*Speaking and writing skills in Thai, Burmese or Khmer

*Experience in carrying out collaborative projects

*Experience doing national and regional-level advocacy

*Experience using social media (i.e. Twitter, Facebook, etc.) for awareness raising

APPLICATION PROCEDURE

For those interested, please email your CV and cover letter along with two referees’ contact details and a writing sample in English to MMN Regional Coordinator Ms. Reiko Harima at application@mekongmigration.org              by 10 March 2018.  Only short-listed candidates will be contacted. Interviews will be conducted on a rolling basis.

The Mekong Migration Network and Clean Clothes Campaign co-organise a series of back-to-back workshops on the global garment industry

In January 2018, the Mekong Migration Network and Clean Clothes Campaign joined forces to co-organise a series of back-to-back workshops on the global garment industry with a particular focus on the garment-producing country of Myanmar (Burma).

Clean Clothes Campaign (CCC) is a global alliance of trade unions and NGOs, based in both garment-producing and consuming markets, that are dedicated to improving working conditions and empowering workers in the garment industry. CCC works in solidarity with organised garment factory workers to develop concrete cases of labour rights violations and execute campaign strategies to pressure companies and governments to ensure that the rights of these workers are implemented and respected.

In collaboration with the Asian Institute of Technology (AIT), MMN is conducting a research and advocacy project exploring the policies and practices of the garment industry operating in industrial zones and Special Economic Zones in Myanmar, Thailand, and Cambodia. The project will investigate how these particular environments impact cross-border and internal women migrant workers’ working and living conditions, life choices, participation in collective action, and relationship with local communities.

In recognition of the rapid expansion of Myanmar’s export-oriented garment industry and the subsequent need to better understand the challenges facing workers in this sector, MMN and CCC co-hosted a workshop and network exchange on 15 and 16 January in Yangon. On 15 January, 21 representatives from Yangon-based trade unions and civil society organisations, as well as 9 people representing trade unions and organisations from Sri Lanka, Hong Kong, Indonesia, India, Thailand, and the Netherlands, gathered at Sagawa Meeting Spaces to participate in the MMN/CCC Garment Worker Labour Rights Workshop. By means of interactive presentations, group discussions, and activities, participants exchanged information on the key challenges facing garment factory workers and labour rights activists in their countries as well as strategies used to promote and protect the rights of these workers.

On 16 January, 6 trade union and CSO representatives from Korea, the Philippines, Cambodia, Bangladesh, Malaysia, and Norway joined the previous day’s participants for the MMN/CCC Network Exchange. This meeting carved a space for Myanmar unions and organisations to share information on the garment industry in Myanmar, the challenges being faced by Yangon garment factory workers, and the interests and priorities of unions and labour organisations. The meeting provided an opportunity for Myanmar organisations to better understand the workings of MMN and CCC respectively, as well as develop partnerships with likeminded groups in other countries.

Following a fruitful exchange, CCC network members and MMN project partners relocated to Bangkok to partake in a three-day CCC Urgent Appeals Global Meeting. From 17-19 January, around 60 people from over 20 countries across Asia, Europe, and North America met to review, evaluate, and improve upon CCC’s internal campaigning system. During the meeting, the MMN Secretariat made a presentation on the implications of Special Economic Zones for workers in the Greater Mekong Subregion as part of a series of presentations on global trends affecting the garment industry. The MMN Secretariat and project partners also had an opportunity to present an overview of the joint MMN-AIT research project and seek feedback on advocacy strategies from members of CCC.

While wearied from organising and participating in consecutive meetings, MMN project partners and Secretariat members departed Bangkok feeling inspired by the momentum of the CCC network and the possibility of joining forces again in the future to advocate for the protection of the rights of garment factory workers in the Mekong.

       

The Second Project Consultation Meeting for an MMN-AIT Joint Project on Special Economic Zones and the Garment Industry

In collaboration with the Asian Institute of Technology (AIT), MMN is conducting a research and advocacy project exploring the policies and practices of the garment industry operating in industrial zones and Special Economic Zones in Burma/Myanmar, Thailand, and Cambodia. The project is investigating how these particular environments impact cross-border and internal women migrant workers’ working and living conditions, life choices, participation in collective action, and relationship with local communities.

On 13 and 14 January 2018, MMN project partners and Secretariat members, AIT project personnel, and resources persons congregated at Sagawa Meeting Spaces in Yangon, Myanmar, for the Second Project Consultation Meeting. The objectives of the meeting were: (1) for project partners to share information on the progress of the research and reflect on key issues and challenges; (2) to jointly review and analyse preliminary findings from data collection activities; (3) to jointly discuss future data collection activities, including in-depth interviews, focus group discussions, and key informant interviews; (4) to jointly discuss advocacy targets and strategies; and (5) to jointly draft a work plan and review the budget for the remainder of the project.

From November 2016 to February 2017, preliminary studies were conducted in each of the five study sites: Yangon, Mae Sot, Bangkok, Phnom Penh, and Bavet. During these studies, local research teams and representatives of the MMN Secretariat and AIT jointly discussed the project’s core research questions, methodology, and benefits, and conducting preliminary interviews with key informants, including government officials and zone management committees, and garment factory workers to better understand the context of each area.

Based on a review of relevant literature, internal meeting discussions, and the preliminary studies, garment factory worker questionnaires were drafted and translated, and enumerator trainings were conducted with local research teams. With 200 questionnaires in the process of being completed with workers in each study site, translated, encoded and analysed, project partners, the MMN Secretariat, and AIT looked to the next phase of the project. Moving forward, MMN partners, Secretariat members, and AIT will work together to conduct in-depth interviews and focus group discussions with workers, carry out additional key informant interviews, draft a final report and country-specific policy briefs, present initial findings at a joint multi-stakeholder meeting, and launch the report and recommendations at provincial-level stakeholder meetings within the course of this year.

         

Mekong Migration Network (MMN) cautiously welcomes the ASEAN Consensus on the Protection and Promotion of the Rights of Migrant Workers, signed by the Heads of ASEAN States during the 31st ASEAN Summit.

 

Mekong Migration Network Statement

22 November 2017

Mekong Migration Network (MMN) cautiously welcomes the ASEAN Consensus on the Protection and Promotion of the Rights of Migrant Workers, signed by the Heads of ASEAN States during the 31st ASEAN Summit.

MMN is a sub-regional network of civil society organisations (CSOs) working to protect and promote migrants’ rights in the Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS). Given the significant impact that ASEAN policies on the protection of migrant workers will have in the GMS, MMN has actively engaged in ASEAN policy dialogues wherever possible.

MMN recalls the optimism and excitement among CSOs at the signing of the ASEAN Declaration on the Protection and Promotion of the Rights of Migrant Workers in 2007. Although the scope of the Declaration was limited, it nonetheless conveyed the expectation that ASEAN was intent on protecting and promoting the rights of migrant workers. With a commitment to contribute constructively to the follow-up process, various migrants’ rights networks, including MMN, joined forces to formulate the “Civil Society Proposal: ASEAN Framework Instrument on the Protection and Promotion of the Rights of Migrant Workers”.[1] Our joint proposal was submitted to ASEAN in 2009 and was warmly welcomed by Dr. Donald Tambunan, the then head of the Social Welfare, Women, Labour and Migrant Workers Division of the ASEAN Secretariat.[2]

Since then, in preparation for the formulation of an effective instrument, countless CSO and government meetings have been held, including the annual ASEAN Forum on Migrant Labour (AFML).

The Consensus is a result of these decade-long efforts. On a positive note, the instrument recognises the contribution of migrants to both sending and receiving countries, and reaffirms the respect for and promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms, as well as the principles of democracy, the rule of law and good governance.

While we are disappointed that the Consensus has practical limitations, since it is not legally binding and the clauses are subject to national laws, regulations and policies, we nonetheless hold out optimism in the positive spirit and moral principles expressed within the Consensus. We sincerely hope that Singapore, the next chair of ASEAN, will display progressive leadership in developing the follow-up action plan.

In particular, we urge ASEAN states to consider the following areas in developing its action plan:

  1. Mediation – While the responsibilities of receiving and sending countries are spelled out within the Consensus, greater clarity is required in terms of how respective countries will resolve situations where there is a contradiction or inconsistency in policies between sending and receiving countries. We urge ASEAN to develop an effective system of mediation whereby disputes and policy incoherence can be discussed and resolved in a constructive, non-confrontational and cooperative manner.
  2. Monitoring – While the responsibilities of ASEAN states are elaborated within the Consensus, no mention is made as to how they will work towards fulfilling their commitments. We urge ASEAN to establish effective monitoring mechanisms to oversee the progress made by member states on issues such as changes made to prevailing laws, regulations and policies to reflect the spirit of the Consensus. As implementation of the Consensus is subject to national laws, regulations and policies, there is an urgent need to develop a coherent approach to implementation to avoid ad hoc application. Furthermore, given the relatively weak negotiation position of sending countries, we urge ASEAN to pay special attention to the challenges faced by sending countries, while encouraging receiving states to facilitate efforts made by sending countries to protect the rights of their citizens overseas.
  3. Meaningful Dialogue with CSOs – In pursuance of the people-oriented community described in ASEAN 2025: Forging Ahead Together, we urge ASEAN to continue an informed and meaningful dialogue with CSOs, including trade unions and migrant-led associations, throughout the follow-up process, notably in relation to the formulation of its action plan and subsequent monitoring and reporting of its implementation.
  4. Inclusive Approach to Rights Protection – In the GMS, where countries share long land borders and where migration is characterised by its mixed nature, it is difficult to identify migrant workers “who become undocumented through no fault of their own”.  We urge ASEAN states to take the reality of migration in the region into consideration, avoid criminalising undocumented migrants, and be inclusive in its approach to applying rights protection, such as by recognising migrant workers’ right to a family life. Moreover, given notable absence of ASEAN policies on refugee protection, we urge ASEAN to adhere to the principle of non-refoulment and provide protection to the most vulnerable members of the migrant population who are in need of protection.
  5. Uphold the Principle of Non-discrimination – We welcome the fact that the Consensus undertakes to adhere to the principle of fair treatment with respect to gender and nationality. We urge ASEAN to take pro-active steps to ensure that this principle of non-discrimination is upheld broadly, including, but not limited to, at the time of recruitment, in workplaces, when accessing social services and when accessing justice systems. For example, we would urge Member States to pay special attention to the principles of fair treatment and non-discrimination in relation to meeting mandatory “health requirements” of receiving states. Such screening should be carried out with the sole purpose of protecting public health by preventing the spread of communicable diseases and not for the purpose of discriminating against certain populations, including, but not limited to, pregnant women and people living with HIV.

 

Finally, MMN wishes to reiterate the significant contribution made by migrant workers – both professional and low paid workers – in the region. While ASEAN is moving towards easing restrictions on the movement of professional workers in the region, migration policies for low paid workers, who are the majority of the work force in the region, remain restrictive. We would like to highlight the findings from the recent World Bank report, Migrating for Opportunities, which states that easing restrictions on labour migration in ASEAN can boost workers’ welfare and deepen regional economic integration.[3] We hope that ASEAN will take this finding into consideration when formulating migration policies and work towards easing restrictions on labour migration. After all, we hope that ASEAN is moving towards achieving the “caring and sharing” community to which all members of society, including migrant workers and their families, feel they belong.

 

Mekong Migration Network (MMN), launched in 2003, is a network of civil society organisations and research institutes promoting and protecting the rights of migrant workers and their families in the Greater Mekong Subregion. MMN currently has over 40 member organisations, and carries out collaborative research, policy monitoring, advocacy and capacity building. For more information about MMN, visit: www.mekongmigration.org

For inquiries about this statement, please contact:

Reiko Harima, MMN Regional Coordinator

(Email reiko@mekongmigration.org or Tel +852 93692244)

Omsin Boonlert (Thai and English), MMN Research and Advocacy Officer

(Email plaii@mekongmigration.org or Tel +66(53)283259 or +66 869238313)

 

Download PDF version here.

 

 

[1] Task Force on ASEAN Migrant Workers (TF-AMW), 2009. http://www.workersconnection.org/resources/Resources_72/book_tf-amw_feb2010.pdf

[2] Ibid, page 9.

[3]Mauro Testaverde, Harry Moroz, Claire H. Hollweg, and Achim Schmillen, Migrating to Opportunity: Overcoming Barriers to Labor Mobility in Southeast Asia, World Bank, 2017, page 5. https://openknowledge.worldbank.org/bitstream/handle/10986/28342/9781464811067.pdf?sequence=22&isAllowed=y

 

 

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