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Maritime Union Plans National Waterfront Stoppage

Media release Monday 6 September 2004

Maritime Union plans national waterfront stoppage if overseas labour introduced

The Maritime Union has attacked continued attempts to introduce overseas labour into New Zealand.

Maritime Union General Secretary Trevor Hanson says the practice is spreading from the horticulture industry into the fishing industry and now into areas such as prison officers.

"Any attempt to introduce overseas, casualized and deunionized short term labour on the New Zealand waterfront will be met with an immediate stoppage by Maritime Union members," says Mr Hanson.

"We are giving some advance warning as we feel the maritime industry is extremely vulnerable as it has already been ravaged by casualization, contracting out and other appalling practices." He says current developments are extremely disturbing at a time when New Zealand is signing up to free trade agreements with countries such as China and Thailand.

Mr Hanson says all workers are under threat from a globalized labour market where employers can move labour around as a commodity, without regard to the economic effects on local workers or the human rights of the overseas workers.

"We agree with the Council of Trade Unions that these free trade deals endanger jobs and conditions and link us with nations that have appalling human rights records."

Mr Hanson says New Zealanders should take a long hard look at the overseas 'ships of shame' in New Zealand waters to see the realities of the global free market in action.

Incidents onboard "Flag of Convenience" ships operating within New Zealand in the last year include:

- The collapse and failure of ship cranes being operated by New Zealand workers in Port Chalmers (November 2003), Bluff (January 2004), Wellington (July 2003) and Mt Maunganui (August 2004).

- Maritime Union and International Transport Workers' Federation (ITF) inspections uncover regular underpayment of international crews, including 'Shohoh' (US$26 000 recovered in Nelson, March 2004) and on the 'Wisteria' (US$28 548 recovered, May 2003). Crews are often repatriated with the help of the ITF/Maritime Union due to concerns for their safety onboard. These are the lucky ones.

- Regular attempts to introduce 'self loading' whereby overseas crews are ordered to perform on shore work that is done by New Zealand waterfront workers, threatening jobs, biosecurity and port security.

"Our members work on a daily basis with ships and crews from Third World countries who are exploited, silenced and endangered on these ships of shame, and we will fight any attempt to introduce Third World conditions or casualized sweatshop labour into New Zealand," says Mr Hanson.


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