Fair Fish: Fostering Accountability in Recruitment for Fishery Workers
The FAIR Fish project helps create a fair global playing field for workers and responsible U.S. businesses by engaging with the private sector to reduce forced labor and human trafficking in the fishing and seafood processing sectors in Thailand. By working directly with companies and their labor recruiters, the project helps these companies improve their approaches to addressing forced labor and human trafficking in recruitment processes, strengthen compliance with recruitment policies and procedures by third-party recruiters, and promote responsible recruitment among other small- and medium-sized enterprises.
Recruitment agencies play an important role in helping workers find decent work and matching qualified candidates with available jobs. Unfortunately, the recruitment process often lacks transparency and a clear line of accountability for the actors involved to uphold worker protections. When employers use third-party labor recruiters, they risk losing control of the recruitment process, particularly when it is spread across several agencies and agents, each fulfilling discrete roles and often charging different systems. The informality in the process can make it challenging to bring recruitment processes into compliance with international guidelines. Many of the 25 million forced laborers worldwide were deceived or coerced by employers or labor recruiters. Such deceitful employers and recruiters mislead workers about the nature and conditions of work, confiscate passports and other identity documents, exact recruitment fees that led to debt bondage, withhold wages, and even threaten or commit acts of physical violence.
FAIR Fish assists two private sector companies, as well as their recruitment agencies and recruiters, as they develop a responsible recruitment pilot model for small- and medium-size enterprises built on the principles of the Business Social Compliance Initiative. Activities include establishing a business case for responsible recruitment and coaching targeted recruitment agencies to comply with the companies’ new recruitment policies.
Once the model has been finalized, FAIR Fish will develop a responsible recruitment curriculum, translated and culturally adapted for Thailand, Myanmar, and Cambodia. After training a pool of master trainers, other local recruitment agencies and labor brokers will be trained in their respective countries.
The project has:
- Increased seafood processing companies’ and workers’ knowledge of the vulnerabilities of migrant workers to exploitation in the seafood processing industries, leading them to take important steps to prevent abusive recruitment.
- Produced and disseminated a study mapping recruitment supply chains from Burma and Cambodia into Thailand, which demonstrated that there are different challenges to responsible recruitment, depending on the worker’s country of origin.
- Conducted factory visits and drafted detailed document reviews of the participating companies’ social compliance management systems. Based on these findings, implementing partner, the Food School then helped the companies draft a set of policies and procedures related to recruitment. The Food School also delivered 55 support sessions to the companies on how to improve their compliance with international responsible recruitment standards.
- Adjusted its strategy in response to new challenges from civil unrest to the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite civil unrest in Burma and Thailand, as well as restrictions on business operations and border closures imposed by Thailand’s pandemic response policies, the project has found effective ways to communicate and connect industry representatives and recruiters to learn and share good practices with one another through regular video conferences on key topics. For example, the project created channels for migrant workers to continue to communicate and access responsible recruitment information through social media and texting apps. Moreover, it has shifted strategy from initial plans for in-person trainings for recruiters in Burma and Cambodia to an online platform that will deliver courses in a modular, on-demand format.