21 April 2023
On 17 April the International Transport Workers Federation wrote to the SEA Alliance, UK retailers and seafood businesses about the impact that the enforcement of the Nationality and Borders Act is having on foreign fishers in the UK fishing industry. The ITF is calling for a fund to be created to support workers who may be affected by this issue.
The SEA Alliance and the British Retail Consortium (BRC) responded jointly to this letter on 21 April.
With regard to the implementation of the Nationality and Borders Act, and the impact that this has on foreign fishers working on UK fishing boats that operate within UK territorial waters the letter stated:
We welcome you writing to us about this, and would urge you to continue to engage with ourselves and the fishing industry on this issue. The Seafood Ethics Action Alliance (SEA Alliance) is a pre-competitive collaboration of retailers and seafood businesses aiming to strengthen human rights due diligence carried out in the global seafood supply chain, and ensure respect for human rights. We are very concerned by the reports of mistreatment of migrant fishers in the UK and other countries where seafood is sourced from. As you are aware, we have formed a SEA Alliance Working Group specifically focused on the UK fishing sector, which has developed a detailed action plan, and which meets regularly to agree actions and review progress.
We have publicly stated our concerns about the use of transit visas in the UK fishing sector rendering workers more vulnerable to exploitation, and share your view that the use of the Skilled Worker Visa should improve conditions for fishers by ensuring they are covered by UK employment protections, are able to move freely within the UK, and are paid at least the minimum salary required by this type of visa.
Whilst we hope the move from transit visas to Skilled Worker Visas will help deliver long-term positive change in the UK fishing industry, it is clearly concerning that there are foreign fishers who may be required to leave the UK at short notice, through no fault of their own.
The SEA Alliance is pleased to be able to provide support to ITF and Stella Maris to undertake direct outreach to foreign fishers across the UK, through a recent grant from our Change on the Water Fund and member company match-funding. Though critically important, we recognise that this intervention only addresses part of this complex issue, and further action will be needed from ourselves and a range of actors in order to support continuous improvement in working standards in the UK fishing sector.
With regards to the role that the SEA Alliance member companies can play in supporting remedy for fishers affected by these latest regulatory changes, we are committed to better understanding the scale and nature of this issue, and to thoroughly assessing any specific information you are able to provide on hardship being faced by fishers as result of this change in legislation.
Given the time sensitivity of this issue, we are eager to meet again with ITF and our UK Action Plan Working Group within the next fortnight. We are aware that you and a number of our members will be at Seafood Expo Global next week, but if you could please indicate your availability between 2nd and 5th May, we will arrange a meeting as soon as possible.
This response is provided on behalf of the 31 member companies of the SEA Alliance and members of the British Retail Consortium (BRC), a number of whom you have also written to.
The SEA Alliance and BRC are committed to working collaboratively in areas where we are able to leverage better outcomes in relation to human rights and labour standards through collective action.
As a collective voice the SEA Alliance will in specific instances support and engage with advocacy initiatives. The SEA Alliance will also make statements and respond when there are concerns about ethical issues in the supply chain.
These advocacy initiatives will always be supported by the great majority of SEA Alliance participants but they do not necessarily represent the views of every participant organisation on every occasion.
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