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Government Proposals Threaten Sealord’s Viability

Government Proposals Threaten Sealord’s Viability

New Government proposals to increase the wages of crews on foreign charter vessels will threaten Sealord’s viability, punish the fishing industry in general, and hurt the New Zealand economy, says Sealord Chief Executive Doug McKay.

“What is in this for New Zealand? We already have laws setting wage rates and conditions on foreign vessels, most of us comply with them, and we have agreed to reinforce them.

“The industry has spent a year and a half working with Government and union officials and has agreed a code of practice and terms and conditions which will guarantee consistent standards on foreign charter vessels and eliminate the cowboys.”

The Government’s insistence on increasing wage rates won’t create more jobs for New Zealanders, in fact it is likely to have the reverse effect, Mr McKay said.

“Government compliance and bureaucratic costs have been going through the roof in the past few years. These proposed cost increases, which push foreign wage rates above the New Zealand minimum wage, are just another nail - they are horrendous.

“I estimate they will cost the fishing industry a minimum of $30 million a year and Sealord a minimum of $4.8 million a year.

“Maori, who rely on foreign charter vessels to maximize the returns on the quota they have received under the Treaty settlement, see the Government proposals as seriously undermining the value of the settlement.”

Mr McKay said most foreign charter vessels fishing in New Zealand waters were well run. mf “Sealord has chartered three Ukranian vessels for 14 years, we haven’t had ship jumpers, audits by Immigration and the Department of Labour show wages and conditions meet the current guidelines, and we get thanked by the crew and their families for providing them with steady, reliable and good incomes.

It was important to get rid of the minority of poor charter vessel operators, he said.

“All responsible operators agree the cowboys should be weeded out. Now we’ve agreed a set of measures that will ensure cowboys are not able to operate in New Zealand waters, Government could reinforce this by blacklisting vessels that are proven poor operators. We’d applaud them for doing that.”

Foreign charter vessels did not compete with the domestic New Zealand fleet, Mr McKay said. “Sealord, for example, owns two factory freezer trawlers and three fresh fish trawlers, and also uses New Zealand charter vessels as well as the Ukranian vessels.

“The Ukranian vessels have technology and capability that no existing vessel in the New Zealand fleet can provide. New Zealanders don’t apply to work on them – in fact we have difficultly recruiting enough New Zealanders to work on our own vessels. ”

“I can’t understand why the Government wants Sealord and the wider fishing industry to pay millions more each year to foreign nationals and effectively deprive the New Zealand economy and our shareholders of those funds,” Mr McKay said.

“The New Zealand seafood industry is already reeling from some of the toughest years in its history and the Government proposals pay little or no regard to the real impact they are going to have on everyday New Zealanders.”

ENDS

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