The Maritime Union has welcomed the announcement by Minister of Immigration David Cunliffe that the current system regulating overseas crews in the fishing industry will be overhauled.
Maritime Union General Secretary Trevor Hanson says official recognition that crews are being underpaid and exploited is an important first step.
Mr Hanson says he agrees with the Government the seafood industry is important for New Zealand, but this does not translate into allowing employers to do whatever they want.
“The Maritime Union view is that local labour shortages have been created by rockbottom wages being offered that are not acceptable to New Zealand workers.”
Mr Hanson says that it is not acceptable that overseas fishing crews are only being paid the minimum wage as this has knocked the bottom out of industry wage rates, which is one obvious explanation for the so-called shortage of New Zealand workers.
“This is a dirty, hard and dangerous job, and there should be an industry standard rate of at least $15 per hour.”
This would mean a drop off in shipjumping, injuries and deaths, and money problems for crews, and would solve the labour shortage problem, he says.
“The problem is not a labour shortage but a shortage of good wages for workers.”
Mr Hanson says the Maritime Union will be providing a perspective and voice of workers to the Department of Labour in its 2006 review process.