Government can put New Zealanders in containers, but it can’t give them jobs shipping them

The Maritime Union has a message for the Government: instead of jailing New Zealanders in containers, it would be better to have them working on the containers by rebuilding coastal shipping.

Corrections Minister Judith Collins announced today a “container unit” will be set up at Rimutaka Prison to house surging numbers of prisoners, the latest embarrassing step in New Zealand’s failure to confront the real issues behind crime.

Maritime Union General Secretary Trevor Hanson says New Zealand workers have been forced out of maritime employment in their own country by allowing overseas labour to be exploited on the New Zealand coastal waters.

He says that due to the “open coast” policy introduced by National in the 1990s New Zealand had seen its shipping industry taken apart, while many other countries reserved their domestic merchant shipping and fisheries for local industry.

Mr Hanson says the best way to reduce crime and social breakdown is stable employment for New Zealand workers and their families, which were under attack from job losses, casualization, low wages, shift work and increasing economic and social pressures.

“New Zealanders needs secure jobs, not jail cells.”

During the June 2009 quarter, the number of people unemployed reached 138,000, according to Statistics New Zealand. In the last year, the number of unemployed has grown by 48,000.

Mr Hanson says the Government has canned any investment in coastal shipping in favour of irresponsibly pushing heavy trucking, which will clog highways and push up greenhouse gas emissions.

He says the fishing industry is also another “disaster area” for jobs.

He says recent revelations in the TV documentary “The Great New Zealand Fishing Scandal” showed how New Zealand’s natural resources had been plundered by overseas fishing vessels working in joint ventures with New Zealand quota holders.

The use of underpaid and often mistreated overseas crews kept costs down for the operators, while New Zealanders had been forced out of the industry.

“The Government of New Zealand should be doing something about jobs for New Zealanders. There is nothing to proud of in the new low they have sunk to where we can incarcerate New Zealanders in shipping containers but not have them working in our maritime industry.”

Mr Hanson says “cabotage” on the New Zealand coast would reserve coastal shipping for New Zealand shipping, and the “New Zealandization” of the fishing industry would mean the same in that sector.

This would mean greater ability to regulate and ensure that New Zealand workers had employment opportunities in their own industry with secure, unionized jobs and decent wages and conditions.

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