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Overseas labour "a stain on NZ's conscience"

Thursday 12 August 2004

Maritime Union says use of overseas labour "a stain on New Zealand's conscience."

The Maritime Union says the use of imported overseas labour in the New Zealand fishing industry is a stain on New Zealand's conscience, and part of a long term plan by employers to restructure the New Zealand economy around an international, casualized labour market.

The Immigration Service approved short term working permits in May for foreign workers to be employed on domestic fishing vessels now working in New Zealand waters and ports.

Maritime Union National President Phil Adams says the use of short-term overseas workers in the fishing industry is destroying the future of New Zealand workers.

"What we are seeing is not a one-off situation, it is a process that we believe is intended to knock the bottom out of wages and conditions in the most vulnerable industries first."

Mr Adams says labour and skills shortages are a reflection of industry problems such as pay rates and training, not problems with New Zealand workers.

"If the companies bringing in overseas workers genuinely cannot find local workers, then they should come clean and open the books to show the wages and conditions they are offering overseas workers."

The Maritime Union does not represent fishing workers but says it has offered support to the Fishing Industry Guild to protect local jobs and minimum conditions in the industry, as maritime workers had also suffered from a globalized and ruthless employment market.

Mr Adams says the Maritime Union is surprised the situation is being allowed to continue under a Labour-led Government committed to industry training and reducing unemployment.

"Unless New Zealand rejects using workers as pawns, a second-level employment market will be created where casualized and underemployed New Zealand workers are played off against imported short-term contract workers who are too frightened to organize to defend their interests."

Mr Adams says the Maritime Union is not opposed to foreign workers, but is strongly opposed to the system which allowed the exploitation of cheap imported labour to undermine wages, conditions and employment security.

ENDS

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