Campaign for foreign fishermen's pay
About 30 protesters brandished signs in Indonesian, English and Korean, saying "We are fishermen, we are not slaves"and "Pay our wages under New Zealand minimum wage law" outside United Fisheries in Christchurch.
About 12 crew members, who had worked on boats owned by South Korean company Taejin Fishing Co and chartered by United Fisheries were among the protesters.
Protest organiser Jolyon White said they wanted "some understanding for the crew about when they can look after their families properly".
United Fisheries general manager and director Andre Kotzikas agreed to facilitate the transfer of $200,000 from Taejin, which employs the crews, to the 12 men by the end of the week. The other 77 people have left New Zealand, but have appealed to New Zealand courts for their wages.
The protesters claim each of the 89 crew members is owed about $48,000.
Under New Zealand law, crew members of foreign chartered vessels are paid the minimum wage and an extra $2. However, the men had not been informed of the law, White said.
Ani Kartikasari, who was acting as a translator for the men, said they worked through an agency in Indonesia, which then sent them to fishing boats.
They had to sign a two-year contract with the agency, which then paid US$260 (NZ$325) to the men's families each month as part of their wages.
The men would also be paid a bonus of about US$250 (NZ$303) for their work every month, although the money would not be given to them until they completed their contract.
"[The fishermen's families] have been digging themselves into debt. The money they get, it's never enough, so they keep borrowing money," Kartikasari said.”
The crew, who did not want to be named, hit out at conditions on the boat. One crew member, who had worked for Taejin for 18 months, said cabins often had dirty blankets and no mattresses.
The cabins were about 3 metres by 3m, and each cabin housed six men, he said.
There was one shower and three toilets for 42 crew, the man said.
Their supervisors were verbally abusive, he said. They called the crew members "dog", "monkey" and "pig", and never by their names.
Kartikasari said the men were afraid to complain because they would be fired.
Kotzikas said United Fisheries representatives met crews every time a boat docked after a month at sea.
"If those sorts of faults were identified, then they would be rectified straight away."
- © Fairfax NZ News
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