Waitrose - fisher welfare videos 003 (credit Eleanor Church, Lark Rise Pictures)

Source: Waitrose

The retailer commissioned interviews with 40 fishermen at two major Scottish ports.

Waitrose has sponsored a series of educational videos aimed at better informing migrant workers about the nature of working in the UK fishing industry. It comes after its own research showed that many continue to remain exposed to sector-wide issues including overwork and illegal recruitment fees. 

In June 2021, Waitrose commissioned the human rights consultancy Impactt to speak to off-duty migrant crewmen working from boats at “two major Scottish ports”. Three quarters of the 40 seamen interviewed reported working up to 20 hours a day continually, over a three to four-week period. None of the workers said they had been paid overtime for their work.

The study also found evidence of workers having to pay illegal recruitment fees, with one worker reporting paying £2,300 to work in the UK.

The workers all came from boats outside Waitrose’s own supply chain, but instead reflected a random sample of conditions within the industry.

It adds to findings from other studies, including the from University of Nottingham Rights Lab in 2022, which demonstrate that many migrant workers are unprepared for the realities of working in the sector, and were not aware of their legal rights when working in the UK, Waitrose said.

“The UK fishing industry relies on international workers, but too many join the sector without fully understanding their rights or what to expect,” said Waitrose senior human rights programme manager Sam Ludlow-Taylor.

“While we’ve long championed sustainable fishing, we know there’s more to do in our supply chain, and particularly across the wider sector. That’s why we’re making the videos public, to help drive real change across the industry.”

The four videos focus on helping migrant workers to navigate the UK fishing industry, including advice on their legal rights like pay and safety training, clear definition of their legal working hours, as well as general practical advice about how they can prepare for work in the industry, for example the adequate safety equipment they should be entitled to.

Following the interviews in June 2021, the supermarket conducted a follow up workshop with the 40 fishers – in addition to six skippers, and two recruitment agents – to define some recommendations about how the sector could be improved, which formed the base of the content in the films.

The films were produced alongside independent maritime charities The Seafarers’ Charity and Stella Maris, as well as the International Transport Workers Federation. The short films have been translated into nine different languages and are available on the JLP YouTube channel. They will also be shown at industry events and distributed by the charities.

The videos are the latest in a series of initiatives by Waitrose aimed at improving the quality and working conditions within its marine supply chain. In 2020, the supermarket launched a programme to ensure that all of the vessels within its supply chain meet the voluntary Responsible Fishing Vessel Standard. It also funds a regional outreach manager to visit ports across England and Scotland to raise awareness about the scheme.