Fishermen on a foreign-chartered vessel (FCV) at work in New Zealand’s Southern Ocean. (Photo: New Zealand Ministry of Fisheries)
New report reveals slavery practice on foreign chartered vessels
Wednesday, May 27, 2015, 06:30 (GMT + 9)
Research carried out by the Auckland University reveals the existence of slave-like labour and abuse that is faced by foreign crew members working on boats operating in New Zealand waters.
As it is detailed by sources consulted by FIS.com, the report is based on interviews with 300 fishermen working on vessels mostly owned by Korean companies and chartered by New Zealand firms.
The interviewed crew members claimed they were forced to work days on end, with shifts ranging from 16 to 53 hours for as little as 49 cents an hour and that they faced physical violence and debt entrapment, Stuff reported.
The university report also details that ships sailing in New Zealand waters are covered by local employment law but none of the workers in the study received the New Zealand minimum wage.
The researchers remarked that more than 500 workers who escaped the ships in New Zealand and tried to take legal action in the past five years have not been granted compensation or wage settlements.
Referring to the issue, Auckland University researcher Glenn Simmons said hearing the fishermen's stories was "absolutely gut wrenching".
Several media sources recalled that in 2012 the New Zealand Government conducted a ministerial inquiry into foreign charter vessels and followed up with a law-change insisting all FCVs had to be flagged to New Zealand and covered by New Zealand labour law.
For his part, labour's primary industries spokesman Damien O'Connor said there were loopholes as the Department of Labour was “too stretched to effectively enforce their own legislation.”
"We need fast-track provisions to enable these workers to get fair treatment and return home. Now, they are left in limbo for months and months, which is completely unjust and inhuman," O'Connor warned.
The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment has taken new measures to put an end to slavery practice in fishing vessels. However, Simmons pointed out the New Zealand response to problems on fishing boats was “poorly co-ordinated,” given police, Department of Labour, Ministry for Primary Industries and Maritime NZ were working to different briefs.
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