Fishing inquiry must shine a light into dark places

The Maritime Union of New Zealand has welcomed today’s announcement by the Government of the terms of reference and panel for an official and wide ranging inquiry into foreign owned vessels in the fishing industry.

Maritime Union General Secretary Joe Fleetwood says the Government’s objectives sound good on paper, but the Union wants real answers.

“Enforceable rules and regulations for labour standards, and the need for New Zealand to benefit from our own resources, including jobs, are the big issues. This inquiry will need to shine a light into dark places.”

“This inquiry is long overdue and the Maritime Union have been calling for one for many years. But we know in advance that this inquiry will confirm what we already know, that disgraceful practices have become the norm and accepted by the industry.”

This has caused great harm, says Mr Fleetwood.

He says in 2006 new regulations were brought in to tighten up the rules around overseas crews on joint venture vessels, but the inquiry was effectively an admission that previous efforts had not cleaned up the industry.

“This is a problem that has been allowed to grow and grow for decades.”

Mr Fleetwood says the Maritime Union’s goal for the fishing industry was simple.

“We want to have the fishing and processing done by New Zealand operators employing New Zealand workers on decent wages and conditions. We want the phase out of joint ventures. They’ve been a failure, that has resulted in New Zealand being identified internationally as a place where disgraceful practices are condoned.”

“If overseas crews are phased out, the abuse, exploitation and underpayment will be solved.”

Mr Fleetwood says the Maritime Union would be working with other bona fide unions and the International Transport Workers’ Federation to discuss ways to organize local and international labour in the industry.

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