Sanford to pay crew direct
A major fishing company that operates foreign charter vessels (FCVs) says it will now pay crews directly rather than through ship owners and manning agents which have been accused of ripping crew off.
Announcing the change, Sanford singled out the owners of the Korean ships they use saying there was "an issue" with the way they paid crew.
Earlier this year a government ordered ministerial inquiry into FCVs said the Korean flagged ships were damaging New Zealand's reputation internationally.
The inquiry was launched after Auckland University Business School and Fairfax Media investigations exposed human and labour rights abuses on more than 20 FCVs crewed by mainly low wage men from Indonesia, the Philippines and Vietnam.
Many of the crews are paid by the manning agents who hire them in places like Jakarta and Manila. The agents are accused of taking most of the wages.
On Friday Christchurch police confirmed they had opened an investigation into the way allegedly false wage information from Korea's Sajo Oyang Corporation was submitted in evidence into the Coroner's Court inquest into the sinking of Oyang 70.
One particular Indonesian sailor, who lost everything in a the 2010 Oyang 70 sinking which saw six men killed, has now been found to have been defrauded of his year's wage, $7949.61.
At the inquest Sajo Oyang produced a Korean bank document showing wages had been paid into an Indonesian bank account. It has now been discovered the account did not exist and the sailor, like many who worked New Zealand's fishery, was never paid.
Sanford said today it had audited its FCV operations and said there is no evidence to substantiate allegations of abuse.
"However, these probes have found that there is an issue with crew wage payments and record keeping, particularly with regard to practices offshore," the company said.
As a consequence the amount of payment made to crews aboard Dong Won ships will be confirmed which each crewman.
"The lack of transparency over payment to crew by offshore interests falls well short of what Sanford would expect."
Sanford said it will pay all crew working on their FCVs directly.
"In a first for the New Zealand fishing industry, Sanford will take control of wage payments away from foreign vessel operators and off-shore manning agents and will pay fishing crew directly."
They will act as paymaster with all crew wages being paid into a New Zealand bank account under the name of the individuals.
Sanford say manning agents will now be "strictly limited to recruitment and these agents will have no role in the receipt or payment of crew wages nor will they be permitted to hold any documents or other securities over crew".
Sanford has in the last year been singled out by the US State Department and major US retailers over the way crews aboard Korean flagged FCVs have been maltreated.
One major US retailer wrote a public letter to Sanford's board saying they were "extremely disappointed" at what was happening on Sanford FCVs and threatened to cancel buying contracts.
The government says all FCVs will have to be re-flagged to New Zealand ensigns within four years.
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