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Maritime Union/MSG demand action

Friday 4 July 2008

Maritime Union/MSG demand action on "repeat offender" Russian vessel

A Russian fishing vessel under arrest in the port of Lyttelton is at the centre of a wages row with crew for the second time in eighteen months. 19 Russian and Ukrainian crew members aboard the 'Aleksandr Ksenofontov' have approached unions for assistance as they are concerned they will not be paid wages when their contract ends on 15 July.

Maritime Union General Secretary Trevor Hanson says the ongoing debacle of foreign crews being exploited was an embarrassment to New Zealand. In December 2006, the same situation occurred when the vessel was held under arrest in Dunedin for unpaid bills and crew approached unions for help with their pay.

An inspection of their documents then showed wages 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. The Maritime Union of New Zealand and the Merchant Service Guild as affiliates of the International Transport Workers Federation (ITF) successfully recovered wages for the previous crew after legal action.

Mr Hanson says the situation shows how a "global free market in workers" is undermining basic standards. He says the Union is serious about the issue and does not want any further crews being allowed in on the vessel.

"Any attempt to send the present crew home without their full entitlement of payments will be resisted both with legal action and direct action." Mr Hanson says he believes New Zealand immigration authorities are aware of the situation and must act to stop a disgraceful cycle of events, which will see these workers go home and be replaced by another crew who will get the same treatment.

"Despite action by the Government to tighten up regulations in the fishing industry, we continue to get these cowboy operators who are permitted to come into New Zealand waters and cause problems like this." Mr Hanson says the 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.


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