12 May 2005
Unions Demand Action over Abuse of Foreign Crew
Claims of sweatshop conditions faced by crews on foreign vessels contracted to New Zealand companies exceeded unions’ worst fears, Council of Trade Unions secretary Carol Beaumont said today.
The Government today released a report into the working conditions of foreign crew on New Zealand fishing vessels. The report also looked at the conditions on foreign vessels fishing under contract to local companies.
“All New Zealanders will be shocked to hear of the beatings, poor living conditions, unsafe work practices and confiscation of passports alleged in the report,” Carol Beaumont said.
Unions called on the companies which contracted the vessels to immediately take responsibility to address the human rights and working conditions of these grossly exploited workers.
“We have requested that the Government set an immediate and clear timetable to find out the extent of the problems and for the companies concerned to rectify these abuses if they are proven, before the permission to employ foreign crew on their own vessels is revoked. “
Two companies - Sealord and Amaltal - have approval to recruit foreign crew on their own vessels and the report found that Amaltal appeared not to be paying the minimum wage to any of its foreign crew members or to some New Zealand staff.
“The fishing industry is experiencing a chronic skill and labour shortage yet Amaltal appears to still refuse to pay the minimum wage, let alone a market rate for its labour,” Carol Beaumont said.