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Foreign fishing crew report released

Foreign fishing crew report released

Labour Minister Paul Swain today released a report into the working conditions of foreign crew on New Zealand fishing vessels.

"Associate Immigration Minister Damien O'Connor and I called for this report after concerns about employment practices in the fishing industry were raised with us," Mr Swain said.

Mr Swain said the report focused on companies who had approvals for foreign workers on domestic vessels. These were Amaltal Fishing Ltd and Sealord Ltd.

Mr Swain said he had been advised that the Department of Labour found that both companies appeared to comply with health and safety and immigration legislation.

The department's main concerns were around the Minimum Wage and Wages Protection Acts, which require employers to show that workers receive the minimum wage for the hours they work in each pay period.

"The fishing industry's pay practices are complicated because people are out fishing for large parts of the year. The department's view is that fishers should be paid the minimum wage over each pay period. The companies argued that averaging pay for the hours worked over one or more fishing trips complied with the law," Mr Swain said.

"The companies are clear they need to meet their legal obligations and they are committed to demonstrating that they are paying workers appropriately.

"This issue is primarily about the timing of payments and needs to be sorted out. Sealord has agreed to work with the department and the New Zealand Fishing Industry Guild to change its pay practices to ensure compliance with the law.

"Amaltal, on the other hand, disagrees with the department's position. The department and Amaltal have agreed to go to the Employment Relations Authority to resolve this issue. Amaltal has also agreed to provide evidence that it is complying with the Holidays Act.

Mr Swain said in the meantime, the Government is working with the fishing industry to develop a longer-term strategy to address labour and skills issues. This will be similar to the horticulture strategy, which is already working well.

"The fishing industry is an important part of the New Zealand economy. The industry employs over 26,000 people, is one of our largest exporters with yearly earnings of more than $1 billion, and is a major contributor to regional economies.

"It is in everyone's interest that the fishing industry is able to attract the skilled workers the industry needs, so it can keep contributing to the New Zealand economy."

Mr Swain said the use of foreign workers was important for the fishing industry with unemployment at a record low, but immigration would not be used as a tool to drive down the pay and conditions of New Zealanders.

For further information on the report's findings contact Department of Labour Deputy Secretary Andrew Annakin. Copies of the report are available from Department of Labour's external communications manager Sue McCabe.

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