After two years of preparation, Keelung Migrant Fishermen Union (KMFU), the second migrant fishermen’s union in Taiwan, was successfully established on 7th February 2021. Various stakeholders, attended the press conference to celebrate the grand establishment of this union. Including legislators, officers from the National Immigration Agency, and the representatives from NGOs such as the Taiwan Association for Human Rights (TAHR) and Environmental Justice Foundation (EJF).
The Secretary-General of the new union is an Indonesian lady, Liu, Li-Hung (her mandarin name). She used to own a snack bar in Keelung, where a lot of migrant workers came over to enjoy her meals. These workers shared stories of how their employers and recruitment agencies were giving them a hard time, and other problems that they have encountered at work in Taiwan. To help these migrant workers, she decided to start forming a union similar to the Yilan Migrant fishermen Union (YMFU) and invited YMFU’s Secretary-General, Allison Lee, to assist in the establishment process.
The preparation of the establishment of the union first started in 2019, but was unable to be finalised due to various reasons. To start a union, 30 founding members’ information needs to be collected, however, the document has experienced changes and edits several times. According to the Trade Union Act, a union will have to be formed by workers who are registered in the same city or county working in the same industry; therefore, workers who are not fishermen, or are not located in Keelung would have to be deleted from the list. There were migrant workers on the merchant ship who wished to join the union, but was forbidden by government regulations due to the difference in work categories. Some fishermen were also unable to be listed as they were going back to their home countries, or were being transferred to another employer. The process also experienced delays because of the bridge collapse in Yilan in October 2019, which killed six migrant seafarers.
Currently, there are around 100 members in the Keelung Migrant Fishermen Union. The union will empower and unite the migrant fishermen to negotiate and strive for better working conditions with the employers and will assist foreign seafarers in dealing with labour disputes. The establishment of this union is expected to be a huge step forward in labour rights protection in Taiwan.
(Photo credit: Shi, Yi-Shiang, Taiwan Association for Human Rights)