The announcement of a panel and terms of reference for an inquiry into the conditions on foreign charter vessels operating in New Zealand waters is good news, Green Party industrial relations spokesperson Keith Locke said today.
Former Minister of Labour under Helen Clark, Paul Swain, will chair the inquiry panel. Current Broadcasting Commission chair Neil Walter and Sarah McGrath, a director of accounting firm KPMG, are also on the panel. The terms of reference for the inquiry allow the panel to look into issues such as potential damage to New Zealand’s international reputation from the use of foreign chartered fishing vessels in New Zealand waters.
“The panel needs to interview in person the Indonesian seamen who recently walked off two Korean charter boats, the Oyang 75 and Shin Ji,” said Mr Locke.
“These seamen are still in the country and have critical first-hand evidence of shocking conditions and underpayment.
“It would be unfortunate if this evidence was lost because they were not interviewed before they left the country.
“Such evidence will be harder to get from seamen still working on the charters, because most will be too scared to talk for fear of punishment.
“Many of the Oyang 75 and Shin Yi crew would be willing to stay in New Zealand longer to accommodate the panel’s work, because they are also seeking the back pay they are owed, and the removal of any penalties for leaving the ship, before they leave the country.
“Immigration and social welfare authorities should accommodate them staying longer than they otherwise would.
“In evidence to Auckland Business School researchers, led by Dr Christina Stringer, the Oyang 75 and Shin Ji crew complained of physical and sexual harassment, excessively long shifts, and wages well below the legal minimum,” Mr Locke said.