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Maritime Union attacks free trade deals

Thursday 18 November 2004

Maritime Union attacks free trade deals as anti-worker

The Maritime Union says free trade deals are being pushed forward without the New Zealand public being aware of the impact such agreements could have on them.

Maritime Union General Secretary Trevor Hanson says current free trade negotiations by the New Zealand Government could mean casual workers being shipped around internationally.

He says the Union is concerned the use of overseas labour in New Zealand will rapidly increase under free trade rules, forcing down wages and conditions and leading to more casualization.

Mr Hanson says he is extremely worried that at least one New Zealand port company has applied for waterfront workers to be included on the Occupational Shortages List, which would mean they could import short-term labour whenever they wished.

"Employers could easily use these loopholes to smash wages and conditions by introducing casual labour from overseas ­ this is a threat to all industries."

Mr Hanson says overseas Flag of Convenience 'ships of shame' in New Zealand waters give a picture of what a global free market in labour looks like in reality.

"Since World War Two, shipping was the first industry to experience globalization, and the experience of maritime workers in this process has been negative in the extreme."

He says New Zealand ports are rife with problems on board Flag of Convenience ships including repeated incidents of collapsing cranes, underpaid and mistreated crew, and self-loading where crews are ordered onto the wharf to perform waterfront workers¹ jobs.

Mr Hanson says he was told in a recent meeting that Japanese shipping companies were moving 40 ships to a Hong Kong registry, with the Filipino crews being replaced by Chinese crews who would be paid US$800 a month ­ as opposed to the US$1400 a month paid to the current crew under an International Transport Workers¹ Federation agreement.

"It is a race to the bottom, and the countries who can provide the cheapest labour are usually the ones where workers have no rights at all and are treated like slaves."

Mr Hanson says the free trade system is anti-worker, anti-environment and anti-democracy, and needed close examination by all New Zealanders.

ENDS

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