The Maritime Union says a hunger strike by striking Ukrainian crew members in Lyttelton is a “symptom of the disease of exploitation in the fishing industry.”
Four crew members of the eight crew remaining aboard the fishing vessel “Malakhov Kurgan” are locking themselves in a cabin and are going on an indefinite hunger strike.
They are protesting about not being paid the wages that are owed to them under New Zealand law.
Maritime Union General Secretary Trevor Hanson says the Union is concerned for the men’s wellbeing, but the crew involved were “becoming desperate.”
“We have concerns for their safety if they return home.”
The fishing vessel is laid up in Lyttelton after mechanical problems forced it to abandon fishing.
Other crew members have returned home after accepting payments, but Mr Hanson says deals brokered by the Department of Labour are being investigated by the Union.
“All crew should be paid at least the minimum wage and we don’t believe they have been, and we have not yet seen anything from the Department to change our mind.”
Mr Hanson says the crew are employees of a state-owned Ukrainian fishing company working in a joint venture with New Zealand company United Fisheries.
“There seems to be some confusion about who the actual employer of these crew members is – but regardless, the crew are entitled to no less than the minimum wage.”
He says the whole situation is a shameful reflection of New Zealand treatment of overseas workers.