Spotlight goes on abuse of overseas crews

The Maritime Union says the publication of a report on the exploitation of overseas fishing crews in New Zealand waters by the Sunday Star Times today has “lifted the lid” on what is going on in the industry.
Maritime Union General Secretary Joe Fleetwood says the union has been advocating for a complete clean up of the joint venture fishing industry for years to protect workers.
“It is good to see the New Zealand media finally shining the spotlight into some dark places.”
In recent years the joint venture fishing industry had seen a string of sinkings, drownings, industrial accidents, reports of violence and abuse, health and safety violations, ship jumpings, appalling work conditions and failures to honour employment and wage agreements.
Mr Fleetwood says the Maritime Union wants a full audit of the industry, including the standard of vessels and opening the wages books.
The use of employment agents in the countries of origin for foreign crews meant the worst practices of Third World economies had become established in the New Zealand economy.
“This situation is what is known overseas as social dumping, or the exploitation of cross-border labour in a globalized economy.”
Mr Fleetwood says just because fishing vessels were operating off the New Zealand coast, that did not give operators a right to ignore New Zealand standards of employment.
“The New Zealand Government has taken an ineffective approach, simply because there are big profits in it for the companies.”
He says the overseas fishing crews are not members of the Maritime Union but the union would continue to offer help if asked as the overseas crews had no other effective representation.
Mr Fleetwood says the Maritime Union and the International Transport Workers Federation (ITF) has assisted crew members on many occasions, organizing repatriation of crew members and the payment of outstanding wages.
The Maritime Union of New Zealand is affiliated to the ITF, which is organizing internationally to improve conditions for seafarers and fishing crews.
Mr Fleetwood says the long term answer is to employ New Zealand workers on good wages and conditions in the fishing industry, rather than allowing the worst practices to continue.
“New Zealand workers have a right to jobs in their own fishing industry, especially at a time of high unemployment.”

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