Archive

Posts Tagged ‘FCV’

A Slave By Any Other Name (#Rua)

10 March 2012 1 comment

Further from my Analysis of Farrar’s opinion piece on abuse of Indonesian seamen on Foreign Chartered Vessels;  A Slave By Any Other Name,

#1

|

Exploitation of workers: bad

Safeguards for workers: good

|

|

#2

|

Exploitation of workers: ok

Safeguards for workers: meh

|

|

Just clearing up Mr Farrar’s position on workers rights;  job security;  decent conditions; and fair pay.

Ok, carry on.

|

|

Advertisements

A Slave By Any Other Name…

9 March 2012 5 comments

.

slavery

slav·er·y

[sley-vuh-ree, sleyv-ree]
noun
1. the condition of a slave;  bondage.
2. the keeping of slaves  as a practice or institution.
3. a state of subjection like that of a slave: He was kept in slavery by drugs.
4. severe toil; drudgery.
Origin:
1545–55; slave  + -ery

Related forms
pre·slav·er·y, adjective, noun

Synonyms
1.  thralldom, enthrallment. Slavery, bondage, servitude  refer to involuntary subjection to another or others. Slavery  emphasizes the idea of complete ownership and control by a master: to be sold into slavery. Bondage  indicates a state of subjugation or captivity often involving burdensome and degrading labor: in bondage to a cruel master. Servitude  is compulsory service, often such as is required by a legal penalty: penal servitude. 4.  moil, labor.

.

doublethink

dou·ble·think

[duhb-uhl-thingk]
noun
the acceptance of two contradictory ideas or beliefs at the same time.
Origin:
double  + think;  coined by George Orwell in his novel 1984  (1949)

– n    
deliberate, perverse, or unconscious acceptance or promulgation of conflicting facts, principles, etc

Dictionary.com

.

Last week, right-wing blogger; pollster; and National Party activist, David Farrar wrote this eye-opening piece for the NZ Herald,

.

Full Story

.

The story revolves around abuse, violence,  and exploitation of foreign seamen on Foreign Charter Vessels, as this Department of Labour media statement outlined on 5 March,

.

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.

Source

.

A Ministerial Inquiry released a similar report, highly critical of crew-abuses on FCVs,

.

Foreign Charter Vessels Inquiry report released

Thursday, 1 March 2012, 12:43 pm
Press Release: New Zealand Government

Hon David Carter
Minister for Primary Industries
Hon Kate Wilkinson
Minister of Labour

The Government has resolved to take a stronger line on the operation of foreign charter vessels (FCVs) in New Zealand waters, say Primary Industries Minister David Carter and Labour Minister Kate Wilkinson.

The Ministers today released the report of the Ministerial Inquiry into Foreign Charter Vessels.

The Inquiry, which was initiated by the Government last year, focused on several issues, including labour standards and protecting New Zealand’s reputation.

Mr Carter says the Inquiry panel has done a thorough job.

“The report is clear that the issues are not widespread in the New Zealand commercial fishing industry, but they are serious where they occur and need to be addressed in a co-ordinated manner, backed by legislative change,” says Mr Carter.

The 15 recommendations touch on a wide range of ministerial portfolios, including fisheries, labour, immigration, transport and foreign affairs and trade.

The Government has already decided to accept in principle, and act on, the Inquiry Panel’s first six recommendations.

The first three recommendations are for practical improvements that can be addressed quickly, and in some cases are already being made.

“The recommendations include updating the Code of Practice and strengthening the immigration approval process – both of which will help ensure better conditions for workers on FCVs,” says Ms Wilkinson.

“We will also be adopting a recommendation that the New Zealand fishing companies chartering foreign vessels have to show the Code is being followed. This is a significant move as it puts the onus on those companies, rather than the Department of Labour, which currently has to prove the Code has been breached.”

The Department of Labour is also to strengthen monitoring and enforcement of FCVs and increase the frequency and thoroughness of inspections.

MAF is to strengthen monitoring and enforcement of FCVs, including placing an observer on all FCVs fishing in New Zealand waters and considering non-fisheries offences when making FCV registration decisions.

Maritime New Zealand is to strengthen enforcement of FCV compliance with maritime safety standards.

Recommendations 4 to 6 propose closer inter-agency co-operation, to be overseen by an inter-agency steering group. This includes setting up a pilot programme for at-sea monitoring of compliance with fisheries, vessel safety and labour standards – targeting high-risk FCVs.

The remaining recommendations cover legislative amendments, ratifying international conventions, and significant policy changes. The Government is further considering the Inquiry Panel’s report and these recommendations before announcing any decisions.

View Ministerial Inquiry into Foreign Charter Vessels Report:

http://www.dol.govt.nz/News/Media/2012/foreign-charter-vessels-2012-ministerial.asp

http://www.maf.govt.nz/news-resources/news

Source

.

Foreign Charter Vessels are a means for local fishing companies to use cheap labour to fish New Zealand’s 200km territorial waters. It can be a profitable operation, paying crews from mostly Third World or developing countries such as Indonesia, much lower rates of pay than their New Zealand counterparts. (Congratulations to ourselves – we’ve found a way to import “sweat shops” from Asia to our territorial waters.)

The Seafood Industry Council (SEAFic) made this statement about Foreign Charter Vessels on their website. It is important to note that, as SEAFic stated quite clearly,

A charter vessel from another country is not foreign countries catching our fish – it is a hired vessel working for a New Zealand-owned company.

This is important because although the “charter vessel is from another country” – it is still covered by New Zealand law. That includes labour legislation such as minimum wages. The crew cannot be paid under the minimum wage ($13.50 per hour) whilst operating in our territory. SEAFic goes on to’paint a picture’ outlining the obligations of Foreign Charter Vessels to follow NZ law,

Chartering a vessel to catch your quota is like hiring a bus to get your sports team to another town.  You wouldn’t buy a bus just for the one trip.  The bus driver, who is trained and qualified to do the job, comes with the bus.  You cannot ask the driver to do anything outside the law.  You cannot, for example, let the driver continue driving without break for excessive hours, even if he or she wants to.

Furthermore, as SEAFic explained,

The crews of charter vessels are entitled to the same employment rights and conditions as anyone working in New Zealand. However, the crews do not qualify for social support services or ACC and therefore do not cost the taxpayer.

And,

The crews of charter vessels are entitled to the same employment rights and conditions as anyone working in New Zealand. However, the crews do not qualify for social support services or ACC and therefore do not cost the taxpayer.

The Ministerial Inquiry found that not only were FCVs violently abusing their crews, but were not paying them properly. Any complaint from a crewmember often resulted in that crewman being removed from the Vessel; shipped back home; and not paid for any of his work,

The terms of the first contract, the “real” one, would later haunt him. In it, IMS spelled out terms with no rights. In addition to the agent’s commission, Yusril would surrender 30 percent of his salary, which IMS would hold unless the work was completed. He would be paid nothing for the first three months, and if the job were not finished to the fishing company’s satisfaction, Yusril would be sent home and charged more than $1,000 for the airfare. The meaning of “satisfactory” was left vague. The contract said only that Yusril would have to work whatever hours the boat operators demanded. ” – Source

Crew members were also abused, assaulted, and sexually harassed,

The boatswain would grab crew members’ genitals as they worked or slept. When the captain of the ship drank, he molested some of the crew, kicking those who resisted. As nets hauled in the catch — squid, ling, hoki, hake, grouper, southern blue whiting, jack mackerel, and barracuda — the officers shouted orders from the bridge. They often compelled the Indonesians to work without proper safety equipment for up to 30 hours, swearing at them if they so much as asked for coffee or a bathroom break. Even when fishermen were not hauling catches, 16-hour workdays were standard. ” – Ibid

This abuse came to the attention of the US media and various companies that bought the product that had been caught and processed by FCV crews. The article below was written for a major US business website, and reveals cases of violence and exploitation on FCVs contracted to New Zealand companies, and working in New Zealand’s territorial waters. I encourage people to read it,

.

Full Story

.

To put it mildly, American clients and the US government were not happy. No company wants to have it’s reputation tarnished by allegations of slave labour associated with their product. Customers tend to feel queasy buying something they know was produced by another human being who was treated as a slave. Not a good look.

And up till now, New Zealand has being getting away with it because,

Asked about allegations that FCVs in New Zealand employ slave labor, [Ashley] Hawkins said [U.S. supermarket chain] Whole Foods is “in compliance with the California Transparency in Supply Chains Act. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, New Zealand is not considered high-risk.” “- Ibid

It seems that our luck has run out, and National has had to sit up and take notice,

“The Government has resolved to take a stronger line on the operation of foreign charter vessels (FCVs) in New Zealand waters, say Primary Industries Minister David Carter and Labour Minister Kate Wilkinson.

The Ministers today released the report of the Ministerial Inquiry into Foreign Charter Vessels.

The Inquiry, which was initiated by the Government last year, focused on several issues, including labour standards and protecting New Zealand’s reputation.

Mr Carter says the Inquiry panel has done a thorough job.

“The report is clear that the issues are not widespread in the New Zealand commercial fishing industry, but they are serious where they occur and need to be addressed in a co-ordinated manner, backed by legislative change,” says Mr Carter.” – Source

Which brings us back to Mr Farrar’s opinion-piece in the NZ Herald on 2 March.

As described at the beginning of this piece, Farrar is a right wing blogger and National Party activist. Which makes his ‘Herald’ opinion piece somewhat more surprising.

Farrar repeats the background litany of abuse that the FCV fishermen have been subjected to,

A failure to pay minimum wages under NZ law (which the FCVs have agreed to do) is the least of the abuses. They get told they will lose the little pay they do get unless they lie to the NZ authorities about how much they are paid. Any complaints can see them lose bonds worth more than their earnings. They are forced to work long and dangerous hours with no regard for safety.

But even worse than there, there are several documented cases of physical violence, sexual abuse and even rape of the (mainly Indonesian) staff who work on these vessels. They are basically treated as slaves during their incarceration on the vessels. Actually many slaves in the Roman republic were treated better, than what has happened to these workers in our territorial waters.

At this point, it is worth reminding ourselves that Farrar is a member of National – a right wing political party that does not like trade unions very much. As National MP, Jami-Lee Ross, said on 11 January, about the Ports of Auckland industrial dispute,

This is in fact a story of the Maritime Union biting the hand that feeds them. It is a story of industrial action that, if left to go on much longer, could have disastrous consequences for the Ports of Auckland…

Up until recently, cool heads and rational people sitting around negotiating tables have meant that little focus has been placed on the role that unions play in society. However, with the bare-faced mockery that the Maritime Union is making of civilised negotiations New Zealanders will soon begin to question what position unions should hold in the modern Kiwi workplace.” – Source

Traditionally, National  has always been anti-Union and pro-business. That’s just the way it is.

Farrar has stated that,

“I do not regard National as always right, but it is the party which I believe gives me the greatest opportunity to achieve the New Zealand I want.” – Source

So what to make of Farrar lamenting the condition of workers on FCVs,

These abuses have gone on for far too long. New Zealand has even ended up on the watch list of the US State Department whose annual Trafficking in Persons Report mentions fishing in New Zealand as a problem area.”

Or this part, which bears a remarkable similarity to Union-style concerns,

New Zealand law and policies require staff on board FCVs to be paid the at least $2 an hour over the New Zealand minimum wage, or $2,700 a month gross for a 42 hour week. But in reality many of the Indonesian fishers get paid little more than $150 a month or less than $1 an hour. They get told they must sign two employment contracts – one for the NZ authorities, and the real one which details a much lower rate of pay.”

If one were to be generous, it could be asumed that the sickening abuse of FCV fishermen is a step too far even for a hardened rightwinger like Farrar. A free labour market market is one thing – but slavery? Nah, that’s the line he will not cross. In fact, Farrar even says,

“They are basically treated as slaves during their incarceration on the vessels. Actually many slaves in the Roman republic were treated better, than what has happened to these workers in our territorial waters.

It is interesting that Farrar uses the term “slaves” – twice! – and once in the title of his opinion piece! – but more on that shortly.

If, however, one were to read “between the lines”, certain aspects of his piece offer another motive for his (faux?) concerns,

These vessels fish in our exclusive economic zone, on behalf of NZ companies that have quota allocations in different fish stocks…

New Zealand has even ended up on the watch list of the US State Department whose annual Trafficking in Persons Report mentions fishing in New Zealand as a problem area…

The Ministerial inquiry has not recommended phasing out the use of FCVs. The main reason for this is it seems there is not enough capacity in New Zealand to fish all of our quota ourselves. This surprises me with so many people unemployed, but I guess not many people want to be out at sea for weeks or months at a time. There are also issues of capital and specialist equipment…

This means that even these changes may prove ineffective, and the eventual solution may have to be require all vessels fishing in our EEZ to be New Zealand flagged ships. This would have adverse economic consequences…”

Taking these comments into consideration, the subtext appears to be  one that is more alligned with economic concerns – i.e. “adverse economic consequences” as Farrar himself says at the end.

So, which is it; a hidden streak of concern for workers and their rights which heretofore has never been seen in David Farrar?

Or a deep concern that these abuses are an annoying distraction which might have “adverse economic consequences” on our profit/loss end-of-year bottomline?

Luckily, we have Mr Farrar’s own blog, Kiwiblog, upon which to draw further insights from.

David Shearer says Labour is not taking sides the in Ports of Auckland dispute, but here are two of his MPs on the picket line.

I guess they have no choice as the Maritime Union is actually an affiliate member of the Labour Party, and one of their donors. Not even the documented examples of union hostility to female and non European workers is enough to shake their support of the union.” – Labour Not taking sides, 27 February 2012

Strangely, Farrar states that “here are two of his MPs on the picket line” at the Maritime Union/Ports of Auckland Ltd (POAL) dispute – as if it were a bad thing?

Can it be that Mr Farrar disapproves, or may even be hostile, to the POAL workers who are on strike? Let’s keep reading further blogposts from Mr Farrar,

Phil Twyford blogs:

Len Brown was elected the people’s mayor on a wave of support across west and south Auckland. People opted decisively for his plan for public transport, and a modern inclusive vision for the city that embraced the young, the brown and working people.

Which makes it puzzling that he is choosing to stand by and watch while his port subsidiary tries to contract out 300 jobs. …

It is all the more puzzling given the Mayor’s commitment to reducing social inequality, reflected in the excellent Auckland Plan. It is hard to see how we are going to build a more prosperous and inclusive city by stripping the city’s employees of their work rights and job security. …

It is time for Len Brown and his Council to rethink their demand for a 12% return, and replace it with something reasonable and not excessive. He should tell the port company casualisation is not an acceptable approach to employment relations in a port owned by the people of Auckland.

This is the same Phil Twyford who spent years saying that Wellington should not dictate to Auckland, yet is now trying to bully Len Brown into putting the interests of the Labour Party (for the Maritime Union is part of the Labour Party) ahead of the interests of Auckland.

Len knows he would be toast if he kneecapped a Council subsidiary, just to please the Labour caucus in Wellington.” – Maritime Union wants total control, 29 February 2012

After weeks and months of strikes, and a growing loss of business to other ports, it was inevitable that Ports of Auckland would go down the only viable path left to them, which is contracting out.

The Herald reports:

Ports of Auckland said the decision to introduce “competitive stevedoring ” was partly the result of the impact of long running industrial action on its business.

Redundancies would begin later next week, with striking staff encouraged to apply for new positions, he said.

“This decision has not been made lightly, but we believe it is vital to ensuring a successful and sustainable future for the Port, including protecting jobs over the long term,” he said.

Ports of Auckland Chairman Richard Pearson said the company’s priority was to win back lost business.

“This decision will reassure the wider market and customers that we plan to achieve a sustainable lift in the port’s competitiveness as soon as possible.

One can’t continue with a situation where you get paid for 43 hours and only actually work 28.” – Maritime Union succeeds in getting their workers sacked, 7 March 2012

Oh, dear, not looking terribly good for poor Mr Farrar. His comments above do not seem to be very sympathetic to striking workers – workers who are not seeking higher pay as their main claim, but are desperately trying  to stop POAL employers from casualising the work force and contracting out their jobs to stevedoring companies.

And next,

Last night on 3 News they interviewed a couple of staff working at the Port of Tauranga. What a stark difference it was to the Ports of Auckland. They talked of a culture of getting the job done, and even pride about increasing efficiency.  An extract:

Throughout the Auckland dispute, the Port Of Tauranga has been held up as an example of how Auckland could operate – profits are at a record high, and the port seems to have a contented workforce which gets the job done quickly and efficiently.

David Hone has worked at the port for 18 years and, like 90 percent of employees, is a shareholder in the company.

He says “working in a place that you’re part owner [of]” means he’s more invested in the success of the business.

It’s one of the key reasons the port is so successful, according to chief executive Mark Cairns.

“If you have a stake in a company your behaviour changes when you’re an employee,” he says.

I’m a huge fan of employees being shareholders, and POT seem to be a great example of how well this can work. It is such a shame that Mike Lee a few years back deprived POAL employees of this opportunity.

Profits and efficiency do not need to be the enemy of having a happy workforce. It is just when dinosaur unions get in the way, that it does not happen. Look what has happened at POAL since the unionised staff went off the job:

Ports of Auckland chairman Richard Pearson says flexible rosters increase productivity and the 50 non-union workers have proved that.

“We’re operating at a 25 percent production improvement on what we were achieving 3 or 4 weeks ago before the strike,” he says.

“They don’t want to go slow so they can get another shift, they just want to work.”

Imagine the incentive at the moment. If you can delay a ship for another 90 minutes, then you get an extra eight hours pay.

There’s a lot of focus at the moment on the possible expansion of the Port into the harbour more. POAL makes the point that if they can lift labour productivity by a conservative 20% it would give them the equivalent of two new berths, allowing the Port to accommodate five extra ship calls each week.” – What a difference, 8 March 2012

Ok, it’s fairly clear that David Farrar has little or no concern for workers on the Ports of Auckland – workers who are his fellow Kiwis.

So one has to view his faux concern for workers rights on Foreign Charter Vessels with a little more than just a passing suspicion.

Farrar stated that,

“They are basically treated as slaves during their incarceration on the vessels. Actually many slaves in the Roman republic were treated better, than what has happened to these workers in our territorial waters.

It is interesting that Farrar refer to the term “slaves” in the context of the Indonesian fishermen on Korean FCVs.

The Maritime Union – representing it’s members – is struggling to preserve hard-won conditions that have been built up over the years. Without a Union, workers in this country would be abused; cheated out of wages – or paid a subsistance sum; exploited; over-worked; expected to work in dangerous conditions, risking injury or worse; and generally treated like… slaves.

The Indonesian fishermen had no Union to protect their rights. And strangely, New Zealand observers had reportedly “seen nothing untoward,

When asked for comment, Chief Executive Officer Eric Barratt said Sanford’s observers, which the company placed on all their foreign-chartered vessels (FCVs), reported that the ships “don’t have any issues with labor abuse.” – Source

Remarkably, Farrar sees nothing incongruous with his clearly-stated anti-Union beliefs.

Either he is incredibly naive – or else is a skilled practitioner at the art of ‘doublethink’. Perhaps he truly believes that workers do not need the protection of trade unions? And that all employers will treat their workers fairly?

Shall we ask some crewmen from Korean FCVs whether they need a Union or not?

Or perhaps they can rely on their Korean ‘masters’ to treat them well and pay them fairly?

What say you, Mr Farrar?

.

Addendum

In October last year,  SEAFic stated,

‘We need more cheap foreign fishermen’

.

New Zealand’s fishing industry needs more cheap Asian labour not less, the Seafood Industry Council (SeaFIC) told a ministerial inquiry into the use of foreign charter vessels.

FCVs, flagged in mainly Asian states, operate New Zealand’s deep sea fishery with around 2000 low wage crews from Third World countries.

SeaFIC says New Zealand-flagged fishing boats cannot get local crews and they now want to import low wage labour as well.” – Source

.

* * *

.

Previous Blogposts

Is this where New Zealand is heading?

Foreign fishing boats, Hobbits, and the National Guvmint

Additional Reading

Radio NZ: Parliament debates Hobbit law change

Helen Kelly (NZ Council of Trade Unions): The Hobbit Dispute

Employment Relations (Film Production Work) Amendment Bill

Legislative History: Employment Relations (Film Production Work) Amendment Act 2010 No 120, Public Act

Slavery and Food Security: The Fishing Fleet

‘Model’ fishers face grim charges

References

NZ Govt: Ministerial inquiry into Foreign Charter Vessels

Seafood Industry Council: Charter Vessels

Seafood Industry Council (SeaFIC) Foreign Charter Vessels Submission

Seafood industry fact file

.

.

Is this where New Zealand is heading?

18 October 2011 3 comments

.

SeaFIC says New Zealand-flagged fishing boats cannot get local crews and they now want to import low wage labour as well.

Despite high unemployment it was hard to get New Zealanders to work on fishing boats.

New Zealanders did not like being at sea for weeks at a time, working in uncomfortable conditions and living in an isolated and enforced alcohol and drug free environment.

“It is not seen as an attractive work place for many people.”

SeaFIC says FCVs [Foreign Controlled Vessels] hiring Asian crews was no different to companies going to low wage countries.

“Many New Zealand businesses have exported jobs previously done in New Zealand to other countries with wage rates considerably less than minimum wage rates in New Zealand.”

It named Fisher & Paykel, Fonterra and Icebreaker.

Air New Zealand uses Chinese crew on its China service who are paid less than New Zealanders doing the same jobs.

Without referring to the Rena grounding it said most ships operating on the New Zealand coast are crewed by people from the same low wage countries used by FCVs.

It said New Zealand was seen in other countries as a source of cheap skilled labour and pointed to Qantas hiring New Zealand crews at rates lower than Australians would get. The New Zealand film industry was based on cheap labour, SeaFIC said. 

There were not enough New Zealanders to fill vacancies created if FCVs were ordered out.

The inquiry opened public submissions in Wellington today. It will hold hearings in Auckland, Nelson and Christchurch.

It was set up following a University of Auckland study into FCVs and media reports citing cases of labour abuse and exploitation.

Last year an aged FCV, Oyang 70, sank off the Otago coast, killing six.

The government in setting up the inquiry said they were concerned at the damage to reputation New Zealand was suffering over FCVs and allegations it  was a form of human trafficking.

SeaFIC say there is no evidence that FCV companies are failing to pay their crews according a code of practice which requires crews to receive the New Zealand minimum wage.

New Zealand’s reputation is not a function of compliance by the companies, but the result of public opinion.

“The intensity of comment in the media, whether based on fact or allegation, may present risk to international reputation.”

FCV crews do not pay tax or Accident Compensation levies.

“A tax paying, single New Zealand resident not entitled to any additional tax or welfare assistance would need to earn $37,650 gross ($32,760 net) to be better paid than a crewman on a FCV.”

Through FCVs, the fishing industry was transferring over $65 million annually to citizens of developing countries.

By comparison, it said, the New Zealand Government gave just $31 million to Oxfam and Volunteer Service Aboard to work in such countries.

SeaFIC admitted that their submission was not supported by all its members and amounted only to a majority view of fishing quota owners who use FCVs.

Source

.

Labour Minister Kate Wilkinson says reports alleging the failure of some FCVs to comply with proper employment requirements, including crew working conditions, and vessel safety standards imposed by New Zealand had raised the Government’s concern.

We also acknowledge the recent concerns expressed by the Seafood Industry Council (SeaFIC) and others representing the interests of crew members regarding these issues,” says Ms Wilkinson. Source

.

It seems that the Seafood Industry Council (SeaFIC ) has a novel solution to  Ms Wilkinson’s concerns:  instead of strengthening monitoring and enforcement of New Zealand’s employment laws and regulations –  SeaFIC wants to eliminate those ‘pesky’ laws for overseas workers, and import more cheap labour.

It’s akin to resolving the drink-driving problem in this country by simply eliminating blood-alcohol laws. Result; no more convictions of drunk drivers.

Sorted.

Yeah, right.

SeaFIC’s plea for importing more cheap labour is perhaps one of the most rotten and bizarre of neo-liberal ideology. It is not just immoral, it is a threat to workers throughout New Zealand.  It is also based on some rather strange ‘facts’ that bear no relation to reality.

The SeaFIC submission states,

“SeaFIC says New Zealand-flagged fishing boats cannot get local crews and they now want to import low wage labour as well.  Despite high unemployment it was hard to get New Zealanders to work on fishing boats.”

But SEEK.co.nz and Careers NZ indicate that this is not the case. SEEK had only two vacancies listed,

.

Source

.

Careers NZ states,

What are the chances of getting a job?

Job opportunities for fishing deckhands are average.

According to Department of Labour estimates, the number of fishing deckhands declined by about 9% between June 2006 and June 2011 – from 1,856 to 1,694. Despite this, opportunities arise regularly, as people often leave the job after a short time, especially on deep-water vessels.

Regular opportunities on deep-sea fishing boats

Although few new positions are being created, the demanding nature of the work and the long periods spent away from home mean turnover among fishing deckhands on deep-sea fishing boats can be high, and positions regularly become available.

Positions usually become available on a boat at the end of each fishing trip, though these are normally filled by at-sea seafood processors already working on the boat. Starting out as an at-sea seafood processor is a good step towards getting work as a deckhand on a deep-sea vessel.

How to increase your chances of finding work

Most jobs for fishing deckhands become available before the start of each fishing season. The season varies by fish species – for example, the hoki season usually starts in late July, so fishing companies look for deckhands in June and early July. 

Gaining a pre-employment qualification in vessel operations or seafood processing, or having experience processing fish onshore will also help your chances.

Fishing deckhand positions are not always advertised, with employers relying on word of mouth or expressions of interest to find new deckhands. So, a good way to improve your chances of finding work is to approach a fishing company or skipper directly, and give them your CV. Source

.

Not only is there no mention of a labour shortage, but it is stated quite clearly that fishing deckhand positions are not always advertised, with employers relying on word of mouth or expressions of interest to find new deckhands.

Businesses that do not advertise for staff usually do so because it is unnecessary.

The website also states, that  “…opportunities arise regularly, as people often leave the job after a short time, especially on deep-water vessels.

A high turn-over does not equate to lack of staff. Other industries such as the fast food/restaurant industry can have up to  90%  turn-over in staffing. New employees are generally easy to find. This “churn” is often the result of staff moving on to better-paid employment elsewhere as well as other influences.

SeaFIC claims,

A tax paying, single New Zealand resident not entitled to any additional tax or welfare assistance would need to earn $37,650 gross ($32,760 net) to be better paid than a crewman on a FCV.”

This is contradicted by both Careers NZ and Talleys,

.

Source

.

Acording to Career NZ, fishing deckhands can earn from $35,000 to $85,000, depending on various factors, including whether the vessel is in-shore or deep-sea fishing. With a potential salary of $90,000,  SeaFIC’s concerns appear to be exagerated.

However, if SeaFIC is concerned that the low-entry salary of $35,000 is insufficient remuneration to attract new staff, the answer seems blindingly obvious: pay more.

.

Source

.

The wages mentioned above seem to refute SeaFIC’s claims.

If it is correct that “FCV crews do not pay tax or Accident Compensation levies ” –  that is a problem that should be addressed without extremist policies that negatively impact on local  jobs and incomes.

Perhaps the most telling aspect of SeaFIC’s comments is this,

SeaFIC says FCVs hiring Asian crews was no different to companies going to low wage countries.

“Many New Zealand businesses have exported jobs previously done in New Zealand to other countries with wage rates considerably less than minimum wage rates in New Zealand.“”

This, then, seems to be the underlying subtext of SeaFIC’s submission to the Ministerial Inquiry: to import low-waged workers to New Zealand.

The implications of such a proposal are stunning in their audacity – and probably the most subversive since Roger Douglas first began neo-liberal “reforms” in this country in the mid-1980s.

Effectively,  the SeaFIC proposal would mean that cheap labour would be imported into NZ and would quickly  replace higher-waged New Zealanders. New Zealand workers would be competing with workers from Fiji, Philippines, China, India,  etc.

The nett effect would be to drive down wages in this country.

Eventually, the SeaFIC proposal could be extended throughout the country. Workers from Third World countries could be employed for all manner of jobs. Once precedent was set by SeaFIC, it would be difficult for other industries not to follow suit.

This would be an attack on workers like no other in the history of this country. It would make the 1951 Waterfront Dispute  and the de-unionisation of New Zealand workers pale into insignificance.

It would be interesting to learn how the SeaFIC proposal could possibly  be contemplated or enacted by a National-led government, given that John Key has made raising wages one of his administration’s prime policies.

If you’re starting to wonder at how an organisation such as SeaFIC could be bold enough to make such a repugnant proposal  – re-read the article above.

There is no name penned to the submission.  Aside from the organisation name given as the source – no individual(s) have put their name to the submission.

I am guessing that none would dare.

.

***

.

Top 5 companies

  1. Sanford Ltd
  2. Aotearoa Fisheries Ltd
  3. Sealord Ltd
  4. Talley’s Fisheries Ltd
  5. Ngai Tahu Fisheries Settlement Ltd

Source

.

Seafood Industry Council – Current Board members

Dave Sharp, Chairman

Eric Barratt, Managing Director, Sanford Ltd

Peter Vitasovich, Chair, Aquaculture New Zealand

Jeremy Fleming, CEO, Aotearoa Fisheries Ltd

Ross Tocker, General Manager Operations, Sealord Group Ltd

Andrew Talley, Director, Talley’s Fisheries Ltd

Daryl Sykes, Executive Director, New Zealand Rock Lobster Industry Council

Tony Threadwell, Director, Pegagus Fishing Ltd

Source

.

***

.

Related stories

‘Model’ fishers face grim charges

 

 

References

NZ Govt: Ministerial inquiry into Foreign Charter Vessels

Seafood Industry Council

Seafood Industry Council (SeaFIC) Foreign Charter Vessels Submission

Seafood industry fact file

.

.