Overseas workers living in converted containers on Lyttelton waterfront

The Maritime Union is concerned that a group of overseas workers are living on the Lyttelton waterfront in converted containers.

Maritime Union General Secretary Trevor Hanson says inquiries by union officials into the living conditions of five Lithuanian riggers in Lyttelton had uncovered a disturbing situation.

The workers were flown in from Germany to work on the Forum Rarotonga II while she is in dry dock for 10 days commencing 29 January 2005.

“This is a group of workers who are living on the waterfront, next to their job, in metal boxes sitting on blocks, and the situation does not seem right to us.”

The converted containers were initially to be three berthers but after union officials talked to the owners’ representatives they were made into two berthers.

The makeshift accommodation apparently has no electricity or services, with the workers eating on board the ship and washing in the ablution block on the wharf.

One local worker complained that these toilet and shower facilities had not been cleaned and were an “absolute disgrace.”

Mr Hanson says the situation appears to be a case of foreign workers being imported into New Zealand and living in conditions that would not be regarded as acceptable to New Zealanders.

“The Maritime Union is continually seeing these examples of employers trying to stretch the limits and dragging down conditions, a process which is getting worse as the importing of short term, casualized workers is encouraged to become the norm in New Zealand.”

Mr Hanson says he is concerned the flow on effect of makeshift accommodation could have on local workers who often transfer between ports for jobs.

He says the Union is trying to find out what regulations apply to workers being housed within a port or industrial area, and the health and safety regulations that apply to electricity, ventilation, and hygiene.

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