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Petition of Neville Donaldson on behalf of SFWU

Petition of Neville Donaldson on behalf of the Service and Food Workers Union

Ngä Ringa Tötä; launched Tuesday 18 May 2010; 9am

Speaking Notes : Rahui Katene, MP for Te Tai Tonga

SFWU Office, 19b Selwyn Place, Nelson

The Petition: Requesting the House of Representatives to conduct an inquiry into the New Zealand Fishing Industry's relationship with foreign fishing companies, foreign crewing of Joint Ventures, chartered and New Zealand fishing vessels, and its effects on sustainable fishing, employment, and the relevant communities within New Zealand.

- I am pleased to endorse this initiative from the Service and Food Workers Union, Nga Ringa Tota.

- The basis for this petition is for fairness and for justice for industries, for communities, for workers, for families.

- Over this last year, more than any other, the issues around job security, and job satisfaction have been as important to the fishing industry as they have in any.

- During a period of considerable economic vulnerability, we have reached a point where the Maori unemployment rate, as of March 2010, is now 13.6 percent - that equates to approximately 39,000 unemployed Maori.

- As the local member for Te Tai Tonga, I have a passionate interest in protecting Maori employment opportunities within the New Zealand fishing industry.

- For too long we have heard the rumours around foreign nationals being employed in the New Zealand fishing industry or the vast majority of our domestic catch being processed offshore at the bare minimum of rates.

- This petition is calling for an immediate review of the issuing of work permits to the crew of foreign charter vessels.

- We need to know the nature of the current employment of foreign crew on joint venture or foreign charter vessels in the New Zealand exclusive economic zone: how many; under what conditions; from which countries; for what term?

- At the same time, we want to understand the employment of foreign crew on New Zealand fishing vessels.

- Another focus of the petition is to ascertain the specific joint venture fishing arrangements that are currently being negotiated or undertaken with foreign companies or foreign charter operators in the zone.

- I want to be quite clear that I'm not opposed to joint ventures arrangements per se and I am hopeful that this petition would draw focus to the precise benefits and or the barriers that may be created through reliance on such approaches.

- As I understand the history around joint venture vessels they were introduced over three decades ago as a temporary management tool to allow New Zealanders to be able to gain experience in catching our deep water fish stocks.

- As I say it was a temporary arrangement, and yet today we have a situation where over the last seven years the catch percentage of fish stocks harvested by foreign owned and operated fishing craft has increased from a 35% ratio in 2003 to 46% now.

- We know that there are up to 2500 foreign fishermen engaged in harvesting New Zealand fish resources.

- I am hopeful that one of the outcomes of this review will be to ensure minimum crewing of both New Zealand vessels and foreign charter or joint venture vessels.

- There are a range of other issues that may emerge as a result of the reason created by this petition.

- In studying the employment issues that surround the New Zealand fishing industry I hope that we can have an open mind as to whether there are any risks to New Zealand through the operation of foreign vessels within our exclusive economic zone; are there any quality issues around the product; what are the particular implications of a perceived loss of control over sustainable fishing practices?

- In thinking about issues of control we want to know, too, whether there are any issues around the control over the enforcement of fishing regulations, or indeed enforcement of the minimum wage and other employment related matters.

- I only have to think about a horrendous case of brutality reported here in Nelson close to three years ago. In a High Court trial there was evidence given about the experience of Vietnamese 'ship-jumpers' who told the Court they worked between 18 and 24 hours a day on their fishing boats , were beaten while on board and were owed months of wages.

- In another instance in the Port of Lyttelton a group of 27 Ukranian seamen picketed after they were being made to work for $2.40 an hour while under the false pretence that they would receive a wage of $10.23 an hour.

- But it was not just poor pay and unacceptable working conditions that were their concern. Many of the group also feared for their safety, believing that when they returned home to the Ukraine they would be blacklisted.

- We cannot continue to hear allegations about low pay and poor shipboard living conditions - it is neither fair nor just.

- It is not fair nor just to those individuals - and it is also not fair nor just for New Zealand workers to be deprived of a livelihood because foreign crew are taking jobs for just two dollars an hour.

- Today then, is a move to ensure that any vessel wishing to fish within our waters, should be required to have a minimum crew of New Zealand citizens. It is a move to also draw attention to our concern around the continued use of cheap foreign labour within the fishing industry.

- And it is a move to ensure that all workers within our shores, benefit from safe and positive working conditions and positive employment opportunities.

ENDS

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