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Fishing Industry to Undergo Labour Laws Compliance Assessment

25 August 2014

PHILIPPINES - About 140 member-companies of the Industry Tripartite Council (ITC) fishing and allied industries in General Santos City and neighboring areas have agreed to an industry-wide labor law compliance assessment by the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE).

These companies are under the auspices of the Socsksargen Federation of Fishing and Allied Industries, Inc. (SFFAII).

Said evaluation, according to a report from DOLE 12 was prompted by allegations of prevalence of '5-5-5' work arrangement and 'cabo' system in the local shipping and allied industries.

Labor and Employment Secretary Rosalinda Dimapilis-Baldoz announced the assessment in her visit last week in General Santos City where she, along with Undersecretary Rebecca Chato, attended a consultative meeting of the members of DOLE Region 12 ITC.

The consultation was called by DOLE and SFFAII to fully inform the region's fishing industry players not only about their responsibilities to their workers but also on the new program of the DOLE that seeks to elicit full and voluntary compliance with all labor laws, including occupational safety and health, in the fishing, fish canning and processing, aquaculture production, and other allied industries.

"The industry-wide assessment is expected to cover all of SFFAII's 140 members, including all their subcontractors, consistent with its Voluntary Code of Good Practices (VCGP) for decent work and competitiveness,”Baldoz explained.

Orientation on the assessment is expected to begin this week.

SFFAII's membership cuts across the entire value chain from the capture fisheries sector, composed of the hand line fishermen, the small, medium and large commercial ring netters and purse seine operators, to the fish processing sector and exporters composed of the big canning operators, fresh chilled, frozen fish value-adding sector.

Secretary Baldoz have pledged free technical assistance to the industry stakeholders as she underscored a by-industry or by-headquarters' assessments in ensuring compliance with all labor laws under the Special Assessment or Visit of Establishments (SAVE) approach where DOLE composite teams are mobilized for compliance and technical assistance.

The agreement was arrived at following the presentation by the DOLE of the results of its rapid assessment audit of the fishing, fish canning and processing, aquaculture production, and other allied industries, which partly shows the prevalence of 'contractualization' and other general labor standards and occupational safety and health violations by some players in the industry in Regions 9 and 12.

“I fully believe that with your support and cooperation, the challenges your industry face, particularly the issue of 'contractualization' and its forms, such as the '5-5-5' scheme and the 'cabo' system, will immediately be corrected," Secretary Baldoz said.

Baldoz pointed out that correction is urgent as market access is inextricably linked with good labor practices and SFFAII members are expected to benefit from the 12 per cent increase in exports to EU once the country gets onboard the EU GSP+ Program, hopefully within the year.

She emphasized that the industry needs to align its labor practices with global standards as the EU GSP+ requires ratification and observance with 27 international conventions on human and labor rights, including the eight ILO core conventions.

SAFFII is a non-government, non-profit organization, established in 1999 as an umbrella organization of seven associations with a total membership of over 100 companies involved in fishing, canning, fish processing, aquaculture production and processing, and other allied industries.

Its member-associations include the Southern Philippines Boat Owners and Tuna Association (SPBOTA); South Cotabato Purse Seiners Association (SOCOPA); Umbrella Fish Landing Association (UFLA); Chamber of Aquaculture and Ancillary Industries of Sarangani, Inc. (CHAINS); Tuna Canners Association General Santos (TCAGS); Fresh Frozen Seafood Association–Tuna Processors Philippines, Inc. (FFSA-TPPI); and Tuna Cooperative of General Santos City (Tuna Coop).

The ITC-Fishing and Allied Services serves as a venue for learning sessions and valuable discussions on important issues confronting the industry, such as compliance with international labor standards requirements of the EU-GSP+ Program, Department O. 18-A; productivity and the Two-Tiered Wage System. It is also a platform for the industry to articulate matters, such as environmental concerns, labor-management issues and more importantly, the monitoring of its Voluntary Code of Good Practices.

"Fishing is a P50 billion industry, contributing about four per cent to the country’s GDP. With an annual production volume of 2.4 million metric tons of fish, it directly provides livelihood and employment to over one million Filipinos," Baldoz said. 

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