Ending Exploitative Recruitment Fees

Source: HRAS

Published Jan 11, 2020 5:12 PM by David Hammond

Recruitment fees and related costs charged to individuals seeking work in the commercial shipping and fishing industries are unacceptable, and in many jurisdictions, unlawful.

From evidence gathered by Human Rights at Sea, workers and especially migrant workers are almost always made to pay for the opportunity of work either directly or indirectly by unscrupulous third-party facilitators operating under the banner of charging “standard service costs” which in reality are often unreasonable at least, and often unlawful at best.

Fees charged are invariably excessive and underpin an exploitative service industry often bringing life-long debt to workers, their dependents and extended families in the form of debt-bondage. There is also a lack of transparency throughout this human supply chain. Such abusive and exploitative practices must therefore be continuously publicly challenged and ultimately curtailed, if not stopped throughout the global maritime sector.

Recruitment fees and related costs should, in the first instance, be borne by the employers and later shared by the buyers of their respective services and products. This is the basis for voluntary guidance such as the Institute of Human Rights at Business (IHRB) Employer Pays Principle reflecting Principle 1 of the IHRB Dhaka Principles for Migration with Dignity. The Employer Pays Principle being a commitment to ensure that no worker should pay for a job. Meantime, for an employer such costs will invariably fall as essential business disbursement costs which should be lawfully offset against commercial business tax.

In short, workers should never incur debt-bondage to maintain maritime supply chains when such fees are essential business costs that should be accepted and absorbed by employers as part of any lawful and morally-upright business model.

Human Rights at Sea calls for an immediate end to the charging of exploitative recruitment fees and related costs to all workers in the commercial shipping and fishing industries throughout the global maritime sector upholding the Employer Pays Principle.

Human Rights at Sea has published its latest briefing note on exploitative recruitment fees in the maritime sector. The report is available here.

David Hammond is CEO of Human Rights at Sea.

The opinions expressed herein are the author's and not necessarily those of The Maritime Executive.