Fishing industry report confirms worst fears

The Maritime Union says the release of a Government report into employment conditions in the New Zealand fishing industry has confirmed its worst fears.

Maritime Union General Secretary Trevor Hanson says the report has shone light on dark places in regard to the treatment of overseas crews.

“We are disappointed at the Government response to the report considering what is actually going on onboard some of these trawlers.”

Mr Hanson says it is obvious that overseas crews are being abused, exploited and underpaid.

Interviews with overseas crew members by Government labour inspectors reveal a chilling picture of “sweatship” conditions in a globalized maritime free market.

“The overseas crews are being underpaid, having their meagre wages further stripped back by agents fees, and they are often beaten and threatened into a state of fear and silence.”

Mr Hanson says the New Zealand Government should immediately act on the report to ensure that all workers in New Zealand waters can expect to be treated with the basic standards of a civilized society.

“The Maritime Union says the Government should be enforcing the law, not consulting and negotiating with employers who are breaking the law.”

Mr Hanson says the report was completed in December 2004 and was supplied in advance to employers, but Unions involved in the industry received the report today along with the media and public.

He says New Zealand crews are being forced out of the industry due to a Third World economy operating off the New Zealand coast on fishing trawlers.

“The report states clearly there is no strong reason to doubt information from Indonesian crew members that the conditions onboard amount to little more than sweatshop ones.”

Mr Hanson says the fishing industry is a disaster zone, where the environment, local jobs and workers rights have been thrown in the trash to ensure a short-term, ugly and greed-driven system benefiting a few.

The Maritime Union says the industry needs to be strictly regulated to improve working conditions, ensure local jobs and protect the long term sustainability of fish stocks for future generations.

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