MEDIA RELEASE: SERVICE AND FOOD WORKERS UNION NGA RINGA TOTA
23 February 2012
Fishing inquiry must stand up for local jobs
The Service and Food Workers Union Ngā Ringa Tota sounded a warning today for the Inquiry into Foreign Charter Vessels, due to report back on Friday. The SFWU represents over 2,000 workers in the seafood industry.
“There are worrying signals that the Inquiry’s recommendations will be limited solely to addressing the disgraceful exploitation of foreign workers within our exclusive economic zone,” said SFWU spokesperson Neville Donaldson.
“While this exploitation is obviously totally unacceptable, it will be a tragic lost opportunity if the Inquiry fails to address the industry practices that have led to the loss of thousands of local jobs, skills, and career paths.”
Neville Donaldson said the Inquiry had heard compelling evidence that fixing the industry required more than the enforcement of labour standards on foreign vessels.
“Thousands of jobs have been lost, along with skills and career paths,” he said. “The Inquiry has a responsibility to make recommendations ensuring we restore jobs to New Zealand workers, particularly Māori, who have traditionally made up a large percentage of the workforce,” he said. “This is absolutely critical with Māori unemployment in double digits and youth Maori unemployment off the scale.
“Alongside the obvious benefits of restoring jobs in our fishing industry, there are massive economic benefits in restoring local value-added processing, both on and off shore.”
Neville Donaldson said that the Inquiry would fail if it did not result in recommendations for regulations requiring a fixed minimum percentage of quota to be value-added processed in New Zealand and a minimum percentage of New Zealand crew on any vessel fishing our economic zone.
“In 2011 our union presented a petition to MPs at Parliament, signed by 12,000 New Zealanders. The petition called for an inquiry into a range of issues in the fishing industry, including the devastating job cuts in the industry as a result of changes in the past decade,” he said. “It will be a measure of whether the Inquiry has done its job that these issues are addressed.”