The Maritime Union says the situation of Lithuanian workers in Lyttelton has opened a “container of worms” for immigration and safety issues.
Maritime Union General Secretary Trevor Hanson says there are two major issues at stake – firstly the status of imported workers doing jobs on the waterfront, but living aboard ships, and a second issue of safety and working conditions.
He says it appears that employers are now trying to get around immigration regulations by accommodating workers on board overseas ships, then getting them down the gangplank to work within New Zealand each day.
Mr Hanson says the workers were moved from their current accommodation in converted containers on the waterfront because the Lyttelton Port Company did not believe they were situated safely.
“They moved the converted containers onboard the ship to get around the problem.”
Mr Hanson says the Maritime Safety Authority have said the situation is not acceptable and the workers must have onboard accommodation in line with international regulations, or provided with suitable hotel accommodation.
He says the Maritime Union is concerned about how employers are seeking to import casual, short term labour from overseas under the guise of labour shortages, and then using this to drive down working conditions and wages.