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Floating sweatshops a "threat to NZ shipping"

Joint media release

Tuesday 30 March 2004

Maritime Union of New Zealand and International Transport Workers¹ Federation (ITF)

"Floating sweatshops" a threat to New Zealand shipping

Thousands of dollars owed to Third World seafarers was collected in Nelson today by the International Transport Workers Federation (ITF) on behalf of the crew.

The Maritime Union and International Transport Workers¹ Federation (ITF) announced this afternoon that following Union investigations onboard the vessel "Shohoh" at Port Nelson, the owners had agreed to pay crew US$26 000 in backpay.

The "Shohoh" is a Panamanian flagged, Korean owned ship that was loading fruit bound for the USA.

The crew comprises 8 Korean officers, 3 Russian officers, and 6 Myanmar (Burmese) ratings.

The "Shohoh" was being chartered by a consortium of fruit exporters from Beacon Shipping, the owners New Zealand representatives.

ITF New Zealand co-ordinator Kathy Whelan says the Myanmar ratings were receiving approximately US$350 to US$400 per month pay, which is under half the International Labour Organization minimum of US$880.

Maritime Union Assistant General Secretary Terry Ryan says the case highlights why New Zealand shipping is being destroyed by so-called "competition."

"This case is of course just the tip of the iceberg, and highlights how "floating sweatshops" in New Zealand ports and coastal waters are ripping off workers and putting New Zealand seafarers on the scrapheap."

Mr Ryan says the Maritime Union is campaigning hard for a return to the system of cabotage, where domestic coastal shipping is worked by New Zealand ships and New Zealand crews.

"Cabotage would mean a future for New Zealand shipping, and would be a first step to overcome the exploitation of international crews on the high seas."

ENDS

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