Solidarity message at the Sentro ng Nagkakaisa at Progresibong Manggagawa (SENTRO) National Fish Workers’ Congress

By Ms Cerilyn Pastolero, Project Manager of the ILO Project on Improving Workers' Rights in the Rural Sectors of the Indo-Pacific with a focus on Women at the Sentro ng Nagkakaisa at Progresibong Manggagawa (SENTRO) National Fish Workers’ Congress, 3 September 2022, General Santos City, Philippines

Statement | General Santos City, Philippines | 03 September 2022
Warm greetings and Congratulations on your 4th National Annual Fishworkers’ Solidarity Congress! To:
  • Bro. Hidayat Greenfield, Regional Secretary, IUF-Asia/Pacific
  • Bro. Josua Mata, Secretary General of SENTRO
  • DOLE Region XII, Regional Director Ray Agravante
  • Bro. Herbert Demos, Regional Coordinator of SENTRO SOCKSARGEN
  • And of course, to the hundreds of men and women, which are members of Fishworkers’ Solidarity. Magandang umaga (Good morning).
The ILO would like to express our appreciation for this opportunity to collaborate with you on this event, through the Project Improving Workers’ Rights in the Rural Sectors of the Indo-Pacific with a focus on Women supported by the United States Department of Labor (US DOL).

This gathering today is a testament to the power of workers’ grassroots organizing. Ten years ago, fish workers from the vessels to the canning and packing factories, did not have a voice. This, despite the Philippines being one of the world’s top tuna exporters, bringing in millions of dollars in revenue and generating hundreds of thousands of employment.

Organizing and international trade union solidarity has brought to the attention of the world, the plight of Filipino fish workers. While there has been a change in regulations, more work still needs to be done to ensure implementation.

International pressure linking trade agreements and market access to compliance with labour standards is an opportunity for workers to leverage on. Along with this, is increasing concern on ethical sourcing among consumers from international buyers, driving companies to audit their supply chains. Furthermore, the inclusion of occupational safety and health as one of the fundamental principles and rights at work, is another development which workers in the industry can leverage on, to improve working conditions, given how Occupational Safety and Health intersects with food safety, productivity, environmental management, and gender equality.

These developments, however, require strengthening of workers’ capacities at the grassroots level from effective gathering of issues on working conditions among fish workers, programmes to capacitate them in addressing these issues such as membership services, education, campaigns using different platforms, and engagement in social dialogue at various levels.

This also requires broader understanding of opportunities and challenges to improving working conditions in the sector. Sustained compliance to labour standards will take more comprehensive measures that include capacity building of government and employers’ organizations, more effective governance such as grievance mechanisms and more strategic labour inspection, strengthened tripartism, and reforms that would tie compliance with business opportunities and operations.

The ILO looks forward to working with workers’ organizations, as well as government and employers’ organizations in the fishing industry, starting here in General Santos City, to develop a model which hopefully can bring about systemic changes in the working conditions of fishworkers, so we ensure that while the industry grows, no fish worker is left behind.

With this, I wish you all a successful and productive Congress today.