A $17 million wage claim lodged against the owners of three foreign charter fishing vessels that sail out of Timaru is heading to the Employment Court.
Crews of the Sur Este 707, Pacinui and Dong Won 701 have commenced proceedings for non-payment of wages dating back to 2007. Nelson maritime lawyer Peter Dawson is acting for 500 crew members of three Sur Este vessels, three Dong Won vessels, the Pacinui and two Melilla vessels. Dawson said the matter had been transferred from the Employment Relations Authority to the Employment Court, with a preliminary hearing set for September 23 and then a main hearing date to be set.
"We think that's [Employment Court] the best place to argue an issue of this complexity and it has more compelling powers."
Sur Este 707 is chartered by Timaru company South East Resources (Serl), with claims being made on behalf of 29 crew for $3.9m.
The Pacinui and Dong Won 701 are chartered by Sanford.
Dawson is seeking $3.3m on behalf of 47 Pacinui crew and $10m on behalf of 134 former Dong Won 701 crew.
Early last year 14 Pacinui and 21 Sur Este crew members walked off the boats in Timaru in a protest over their conditions.
Dawson said he had been approached by international news media, including the New York Times, regarding his work with foreign crews.
Meanwhile the Fisheries (Foreign Charter Vessels and Other Matters) Amendment Bill, which was introduced to Parliament on October 10, 2012, is yet to become law.
Dawson has also submitted on the bill which seeks to regulate foreign charter vessels following allegations of mistreatment and underpayment of foreign crews.
Slave fishing bill delayed, page 2
- The Timaru Herald