Some Migrant Workers In Fishing Industry Earning Just 1 Pound An Hour

Some migrant workers in fishing industry earning just 1 an hour
Union demands end to cycle of exploitation

By Ryan Crighton
The Press And Journal
Published: 13/08/2008

A PROBE into working conditions for migrant workers in the Scottish fishing industry has found that some are earning little more than 1 an hour, it emerged last night.

The International Transport Union is demanding an end to a cycle of corruption and exploitation after discovering that some Filipino crew have to hand over hundreds of pounds to loan shark agencies in their homeland in return for work in the UK.

As a result, the union found that some are earning as little as 1.24 an hour or 250 a month because agency bosses are seizing their pay.

The union launched an investigation following the deaths of two Filipinos and a Latvian in a fire on board the Banff-registered trawler Vision II on August 1.

The bodies of Filipinos Ramilito Calipayan and Benjamin Potot, both 33, and Latvian Rimants Venckus, 50, were found by firefighters on the 90ft steel vessel, which was berthed at Fraserburgh.

The cause of the fire, which broke out in the early hours, is still under investigation by police, firefighters and the UK Governments Marine Accident Investigation Branch.

Following the deaths, it was claimed that local fishing boat owners had been exploiting foreign workers.

However, the workers are controlled by Filipino job agency bosses known as manning agencies who force them to take out huge loans” which have to be repaid from their wages, leaving some having to work 15-hour days unpaid until the money is paid back.

Union co-ordinator Norrie McVicar spent the weekend in Fraserburgh investigating conditions for workers, and he wants to see migrant fishermen paid directly by the boat owners they work for.

Some of these people are having to pay up to 1,500 to these agencies to get work here in Scotland, so they are unable to leave until they repay the money, he said.

Mr McVicar also said some workers had told him that only now have they begun getting safety training following the Vision II tragedy.

However, one Filipino worker in Fraserburgh insisted they are happy to be working in Scotland.

He said: What I earn in a month here I wouldnt earn in two or three years at home. In the Philippines we have no jobs. Sometimes we have jobs but not enough salary.

Ian Gatt, president of the Scottish Fishermens Federation, said it has been a very tough year for all fishermen not just migrant workers because of rising fuel costs.

It is very hard to calculate how much a fisherman is paid per hour because it is not a traditional 40-hour-per-week job like you would have onshore.

These Filipino workers are coming across to Scotland on contracts, and are being paid as stated on their contracts, and the ones I have spoken to are happy to be here.

They are very important to the industry now and we are very happy to have them.

Earlier this year the Press and Journal revealed that Scottish fishermen were leaving the industry as fuel costs had cut their earnings to as little as 20 a day.

In the last four years, the cost of fuelling boats has quadrupled, but the quayside price for fish has remained much the same.