Migrant fish workers to be protected in new scheme as 35% face abuse across UK

Over a third of overseas workers interviewed across UK say they have faced physical violence or racial abuse.

A pilot scheme is due to be launched in the North East of Scotland to better protect the rights of migrant fish workers.

Modelled after a Fair Food Program in Florida, which supports migrant farm workers, the industry says it’ll allow vessels to be verified, to provide assurances that they aren’t exploiting their crew.

Around third of those working in Scotland’s fishing industry are from outside of the UK.

A report released by Nottingham University in 2022 suggested 35% of those interviewed across UK had faced physical violence or had been racially abused.

It’s hoped this pilot will address these concerns.

The scheme will be run by Scottish White Fish Producers Association (SWPFA).

Its chief executive Mike Park said: “The report isn’t a good look for the industry.

Over a third of workers in Scotland's fishing industry are from overseas

“It’s an industry working in tough conditions, but that doesn’t excuse bad behaviour by the employers.

“So hopefully the pilot project, which will be supported by a code of conduct, will let others outside the industry see that we have our house in order.”

So far more than 20 vessels have signed up to the scheme.

The programme will work by drawing up a clear set of standards, made by the workers themselves on the way they expect to be treated by their employers.

It will then appoint an auditor to make sure their rights are upheld.

The SWPFA is also working with the organisation Focus on Labour Exploitation.

Outreach and engagement manager Nora Boeggemann said: “This will hopefully be very clear and transparent.

“It’ll outline the workers standards, and how it’s being enforced by an independent monitoring body.

“It’s hoped in the end consumers, and different people in the supply chain have trust in the programme and the way fish is being caught and look out for products that meet that standard.”

New pilot scheme is modelled after the US's Fair Food Programme to protect the rights of farm workers

The Fair Food Program was launched in 2011 to prevent migrant workers at tomato farms from being exploited.

It has been successful, with many major retailers in the United States, including fast food outlets Taco Bell and McDonald’s, only buying from producers who uphold high standards for their workers.

It’s hoped similar success will follow here.

Mike Park added: “Currently if there’s a bad news story about the sector the whole industry suffers.

“But this Fair Food Program will take it down to the vessel level, so if there are operators acting improperly then they will be taken out of the scheme.”

The programme is expected to start in the coming weeks.

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