Overseas hiring for fishing boat barred

Overseas recruitment for Korean fishing boat Shin Ji has been halted by the Labour Department following fears minimum wage and welfare requirements have not been met.

The department last year launched an investigation into Shin ji after crew walked off the ship in protest alleging abuse.

The department today revealed there was "major non-compliance" with the Code of Practice to employ foreign crew by the New Zealand charterers of the boat, Tu'ere Fishing.

The code requires payments of the minimum wage plus $2 per hour for hours worked, but in no case less than 42 hours per week. Any deductions may not take wages below $13 per hour.

Tu'ere Fishing was required to keep accurate records on crew remuneration and provide them upon request, but insufficient documents were provided to the department to make a full assessment.

As a result, the department was unable to verify whether the crew of Shin Ji were paid the minimum requirements or whether Code of Practice conditions were met.

Several crew members also made complaints about mistreatment on board the Shin Ji, but the department was unable to form a conclusion as Tu’ere Fishing failed to respond to the allegations.

The Labour Department has since decided that all work visas under the most recent Approval in Principle would be cancelled.

The decision has affected one employee and has put a stop on any further hiring of foreign crew.

Immigration New Zealand acting head, Steve Stuart, said the sanctions imposed by the department showed how seriously Code of Practice breaches were 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."

The Government has already accepted a recommendation by the Ministerial Inquiry into Foreign Charter Vessels (FCVs), which was released last week, to update the Code of Practice and strengthen the immigration approval process for crew, he said.

The department was to strengthen the monitoring and enforcement of FCVs and increase the thoroughness of inspections.

It has also improved its auditing system, with the first audits being undertaken by external auditors next month.

The Government set up the inquiry after Fairfax Media exposed human rights and labour abuses aboard the ships which catch much of New Zealand’s deep ocean fish quota and Maori quota.

The inquiry accused Korean operators of foreign FCVs of mistreating their crews and damaging New Zealand’s international reputation, and made 15 recommendations.

Last year, Shin Ji crew alleged they had been hired for as little as $260 a month and sixteen-hour work days were expected.

The men also claimed the captain made one of the young Indonesians massage him every night, and others were subjected to sexual abuse.