Progress of FCV “slave ships” Bill is good news – but much work remains to be done.

The Maritime Union of New Zealand says the progress of the “slave ships” Bill in the New Zealand Parliament is good news – but much work remains to be done.

The Fisheries (Foreign Charter Vessels and Other Matters) Amendment Bill completed its second reading on a voice vote in the New Zealand Parliament on Tuesday 15 April 2014 with support from all sides of the house.

Maritime Union of New Zealand National Secretary Joe Fleetwood says it was good that Foreign Charter Vessels (FCVs) operating within New Zealand’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) would have to be reflagged under new laws but the timescale was still too long.

He says the removal of proposed exemptions from the Bill was the right decision, but the focus now had to go on jobs for New Zealand workers in the industry.

A shocking number of deaths, injuries, abuse and exploitation of foreign crews have occurred on FCV’s in New Zealand waters.

Mr Fleetwood says the problem was picked up by global media, then started causing concern amongst overseas consumers and companies, and even featured in US State Department reports on modern day slavery.

“It was only when the truth started coming out and began damaging the so-called clean, green image of New Zealand in our export markets, that the wheels began to turn.”

“This is a sad reflection of a profit-driven country where basic human rights and worker protections can no longer be taken for granted.”

Mr Fleetwood says that an important issue that had not yet been addressed was a career path to secure jobs for New Zealand workers in their own national industry.

He says there is a pressing need to create employment in high quality value added processing, on the water and on land, given the serious unemployment levels amongst young New Zealand workers, especially young Maori workers who were missing out on benefiting from iwi profits from involvement in the industry.

He says New Zealand could learn from overseas examples such as Iceland.

The Maritime Union would continue to offer support foreign crews including fishing workers who are being exploited and victimised, says Mr Fleetwood.

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