The Maritime Union says that the treatment of a Ukrainian fishing crew in Lyttelton is a national disgrace and a prime example of the problems plaguing the fishing industry.
The crew have been on strike for unpaid wages aboard the fishing vessel Malakhov Kurgan which is laid up in the Port of Lyttelton.
Eight crew members remain on strike aboard after refusing a deal that 19 of their fellow crew members accepted.
Maritime Union General Secretary Trevor Hanson says the crew have asked for the Union to represent them, as they are employees of a state-owned Ukrainian fishing company working in a joint venture with New Zealand company United Fisheries.
Mr Hanson says the Union is unhappy about mediation that occurred between the Department of Labour and the crew.
“There seems to be a approach of divide and rule, and an intention of quietly getting the crew out of the country before further questions are asked about their employment conditions.”
Mr Hanson says the Maritime Union is concerned that the crew members who accepted the deal did because of pressure coming from their employers in the Ukraine.
“The Maritime Union has written evidence from the crew that shows these workers have been put under pressure from their Ukrainian employers, and we are asking for evidence that all workers aboard the Malakhov Kurgan have been paid the minimum wage for their work while in New Zealand waters.”
Mr Hanson says the the Union has run out of patience with the fishing industry.
He says the Department of Labour has distributed multilingual leaflets to overseas fishing vessel crews telling them they are entitled to the same working conditions as New Zealanders.
“We are of the opinion that the Department of Labour should be following up their leaflets and enforcing the law with regard to this group of workers.”
Mr Hanson says the New Zealand Government must ensure that the workers are not victimized when they return home, and says the solution is for proper employment agreements under New Zealand law to be signed by all fishing crew before they arrive in New Zealand waters.