Following an agreement by social partners on working conditions in the fishing sector, the European Commission is translating the agreement into a legal proposal for a Directive. In 2013, the EU social partners in the fishing sector reached an agreement, which proposed to align EU law with the “Work in Fishing” Convention 2007 of the International Labour Organisation (ILO). Once adopted by the Council, this directive will implement the social partner agreement, which provides for a higher level of protection of EU fishermen.
Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs, Skills and Labour Mobility, Marianne Thyssen, said: “Protecting our workers and their well-being is a priority for the Juncker Commission. More than 100,000 people in the EU work in the fisheries industry, often under difficult circumstances at sea. The accident and injury rate can be 15 times higher compared to other sectors. Today’s proposal will help to reduce the risks that fishermen face at work. The proposal is based on an agreement of the European sectoral social partners and an excellent example of their ability to work together to improve working conditions.”
Commissioner for Environment, Fisheries and Maritime Affairs, Karmenu Vella, stated: “The EU is leading the global fight against illegal fishing activities. IUU activity hurts the health and safety of fishermen. Today’s proposal will improve the working conditions of fishermen at sea, reduce the incentive for illegal fishing and ensure a healthy and sustainable fishing industry that continues to attract skilled and qualified workers.”
The proposed Directive will improve the living and working conditions of fishermen. It includes minimum requirements for:
- Work on board (e.g. minimum age, medical certificate, information in the employment contract)
- Conditions of service (working time limits, right of repatriation)
- Accommodation and food
- Occupational safety and health protection, including medical treatment on board and ashore
Furthermore, the implementation of the social partner agreement in EU legislation is expected to set an example for third countries to ratify the 2007 ILO Working in Fishing Convention. This is particularly relevant in the context of the fight against illegal fishing.
The European fisheries industry is the fourth largest in the world. The fisheries industry provides jobs for over 100,000 people in the EU. It supplies some 6.4 million tonnes of fish each year. Sea fishing is a cross-border sector which operates worldwide. Accordingly, fishing vessels registered in or sailing under the flag of an EU Member State also operate outside the territorial waters of the EU Member State concerned, for instance in waters under jurisdiction of other EU Member States and in international waters.
Fishermen often live and work for days on board of the vessel in difficult circumstances with heavy equipment. The accident and injury rate in the sector is high compared to other sectors: it can be 15 times higher than average. They do not return to their homes on a daily basis, so they are dependent on their employer for medical care on board, food, potable water, and accommodation.
The ILO “Work in Fishing” Convention was adopted in 2007 by the ILO. It contains global minimum standards concerning the living and working conditions of fishermen (employment relationship, minimum age, working time, health and safety, and a right to social protection and medical care).
The agreement of the EU social partners on the ILO Convention was concluded in 2013. It was agreed by the following organisations representing the sea fisheries sector: the European Transport Workers’ Federation (ETF), on the workers’ side, and the Association of National Organisations of Fishing Enterprises in the European Union (Europêche) and the General Confederation of Agricultural Cooperatives in the European Union (COGECA) on the employers’ side.
In line with Article 155 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU, the social partners jointly requested the legislative implementation of the agreement, which aligns the current EU acquis with the standards of the ILO Convention. Following this request, the Commission prepared a proportionate impact assessment with regard to the representativeness of the EU social partners who concluded the agreement, the legality of the agreement vis-à-vis the EU legal framework and the respect of the subsidiarity and proportionality principles.