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Department of Labour action against Foreign Charter Vessel

5 March 2012

Department of Labour takes tough action against Foreign Charter Vessel

The Department of Labour has found that there was major non-compliance with the Code of Practice on Foreign Fishing Crew and the Approval in Principle (AIP) to employ foreign crew by the New Zealand charterers of the ship, the Shin Ji.

The Department started its investigation into the Shin Ji after crew walked off the ship in protest at the conditions they were facing last June.

The Code of Practice requires payment of the minimum wage plus $2 per hour for actual hours worked, but in no case less than 42 hours per week over the course of the engagement. Deductions may not take wages below the minimum wage for all hours worked.

The New Zealand Charter Party is required to keep accurate records and make these records available to the Department on request, but insufficient documents were provided to make a full financial assessment on crew remuneration. As a result the Department was unable to verify whether the crew of the Shin Ji had been paid their minimum requirements or whether AIP and Code of Practice conditions were met.

In addition, there were allegations of mistreatment made by several crew that present a prima facie case that the provisions of the Code of Practice in relation to fishers’ welfare were not met. A final conclusion could not be made in this area as the New Zealand Charter Party Administrator, Tu’ere Fishing, failed to respond to these allegations.

The Department has now decided that all work visas under the most recent AIP will be cancelled.

The acting head of Immigration New Zealand, Steve Stuart, says the sanctions imposed by the Department show how seriously breaches of the Code of Practice are taken and reflect a tougher approach by the Department.

“Our auditors have carried out a meticulous and thorough investigation and it shows very clearly that the New Zealand Charter Party failed to comply with the Code,” Mr Stuart says.

The Government has already accepted a recommendation by the Ministerial Inquiry into Foreign Charter Vessels (FCVs) to update the Code of Practice and strengthen the immigration approval process for crew.

The Department is also to strengthen the monitoring and enforcement of FCVs and increase the thoroughness of inspections. The Department has improved its auditing system, with the first audits being undertaken by external auditors next month.

ENDS

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