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A cashless Christmas for foreign fishing crews

Friday 22 December 2006

A cashless Christmas for foreign fishing crews far from home

A second group of Ukrainian crew members aboard the arrested vessel Aleksandr Ksenofontov in Dunedin are at loggerheads with employers and have approached the Maritime Union seeking help.

Maritime Union General Secretary Trevor Hanson says the situation with the fishing vessel is a classic example of the problems still coming to the surface in the fishing industry.

Mr Hanson says around 14 senior crew members, believed to be officers, have approached the Dunedin police and the Maritime Union claiming their contract has been broken.

An inspection of their documents showed their pay had been slashed to a fraction of the hours worked, after heavy taxation under Russian law and large payments to the employer were all taken out of their pay.

"The employers want to pay these workers off with $300 for months of work at sea, with the rest of the money coming when they return home at some unspecified date, which could mean never."

Mr Hanson says the Aleksandr Ksenofontov has had ongoing issues since being tied up at the Dunedin wharves several weeks ago.

"This type of situation is exactly why the Government introduced new regulations in the fishing industry, yet it seems some of the industry players are still doing things the old way."

He says the vessel had its first crew leave after a pay dispute, with several of those crew still in New Zealand involved in the dispute process.

"Now a second group of officers are obviously facing a similar problem."

Mr Hanson says a new crew had been brought in who were onboard the vessel, and he would not be surprised if a similar situation developed with them.

He says the vessel was also arrested in a separate dispute over repair work.

Mr Hanson says the concern of the Maritime Union is that overseas crews are being returned home with promises of future payment that were impossible to enforce.

"Our concern is with some of the dubious practices that may go on in the home country where this labour is recruited."

He says the "out of mind, out of sight" attitude with foreign crews was still prevalent, with crews involved in disputes often hurriedly sent home before their claims could be inspected under New Zealand regulations.

Mr Hanson says the industry was watching to see how the situation was resolved under the new improved Government regulations of the fishing industry.


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