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Fishing crews the victims of exploitation

20 September 2005

Fishing crews the victims of ruthless and systematic exploitation

The International Transport Workers' Federation (ITF) says that crew abuse aboard the fishing vessel 'Sky 75' is an example of what a Government report has described as "little more than sweatshop conditions" aboard foreign fishing vessels.

The December 2004 report by the Department of Labour on labour conditions aboard foreign fishing vessels acknowledged serious problems occurring in New Zealand waters.

The Korean-flagged 'Sky 75' is currently in the Port of Nelson after ten Indonesian crew members flew home in the weekend after escaping with accounts of abuse, exploitation and violence.

ITF New Zealand co-ordinator Kathy Whelan says charterers Poseidon Fishing Limited are attempting to shift the public gaze from their activities.

"The ITF stands by its claims and we are happy to go down to the 'Sky 75' with media to do a tour of the vessel, talk to crew and uncover the reality of pay and conditions."

Ms Whelan says the charterers are trying to paint the crew as "illegal immigrants" rather than abused and frightened workers.

"The remaining eight crew members may be staying aboard under duress due to loans they have taken out to pay for their 'agency fee' back home to get a job. The whole situation is a real shocker."

She notes that the Indonesian media have shown interest in the 'Sky 75' with a story published in the Jakarta Post.

The Maritime Union of New Zealand has added its backing to calls for further action against the operators of the 'Sky 75.'

Maritime Union General Secretary Trevor Hanson says it is time the spotlight went on the foreign-owned fishing vessels.

"If these operators have nothing to hide, they will be happy to have members of the media tour the vessel, and have the charterers provide evidence the workers were being paid and treated in line with New Zealand laws."

ENDS

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