The Maritime Union of New Zealand has attacked plans by employers to bring in migrant labour into the seafood industry after mass layoffs in the same sector.
A week after Sealord confirmed it would axe 323 jobs from its Nelson mussel factory, two South Island seafood companies Talleys and Aotearoa Seafood have applied to import 100 migrant labourers.
Maritime Union General Secretary Trevor Hanson says that the use of temporary labour being imported from overseas threatens local employment.
“It is utterly disgraceful that at a time when we have rising unemployment and surging living costs, employers are being allowed to knock the bottom out of the labour market.”
Mr Hanson says the key problem with finding workers was based around the poor wages paid in the local industry.
He says he is disturbed that Immigration authorities seem to have no understanding as to the social effects of the import of temporary labour.
“It is no exaggeration to say New Zealand is struggling with social problems caused by the lack of secure permanent jobs and some kind of career structure and future for young people.”
Mr Hanson says the use of short term workers imported from overseas disrupted local employment conditions, and opened up the overseas workers to exploitation.
“This is not the way to get a stable employment situation or a stable society.”
Mr Hanson says the Maritime Union has predicted that under free trade agreements the use of temporary labour being imported across borders would increase to drive down wages and conditions in a “race to the bottom.”
“Not only are jobs being exported to poor countries to take advantage of powerless workers, now the reverse is happening with the cross border use of temporary workers being imported to drive down wages here.”
Mr Hanson says temporary cross-border labour was very different to immigration, and emphasized the Maritime Union was an internationalist Union that supported workers of all nations.
“In this case it is clear the problem lies with immigration authorities and employers.”