Label our fish and stop Kiwi companies turning NZ into sweatshops
Slavery at sea exposed
The Sunday Star Times this week ran an excellent piece of journalism by Michael Field on the exploitation of migrant workers that is occurring in our ocean waters. That the Government has known about this for quite some time and not done anything about it is abhorrent: the case studies of staff being beaten, underpaid/not paid, cramped in living quarters and regularly dying is simply unacceptable. That other boats in New Zealand waters are being left to sink as people break maritime law on distress calls is not just immoral, it is criminal.
Why is Fisheries Minister Phil Heatley not coming under more heat for refusing to answer questions? This is not just about immigration, this is about the way our New Zealand fisheries industry is being run, a situation that Talleys Fisheries chief executive Peter Talley says is beginning to resemble the wild west.
There is little doubt that this has been going on for some time. In many ways, it mirrors the same kind of economic processes that are occurring with many of the goods we import, which have been made in factories in developing nations by exploited workers. Yet this is explicitly endorsed and encouraged by our fisheries industry in our waters and ignored by our government. These agents that exploit and kill poor Ukranian, Filipinos and Indonesians are being paid by New Zealand companies who claim they can't afford boats, and are literally funding sweatshops as a Kiwi institution.
I urge New Zealand supermarkets to begin labeling their fish and giving the consumer some rights in their choices. I for one will not be buying anything other than frozen fish from brands that I know do not institutionalize sweatshop slavery (the only one seems to be Talleys) until this situation is addressed. Phil Heatley and these companies exploiting migrant workers need to begin answering questions as to why they are breaking New Zealand law.
That the situation is so out of control raises serious questions as to whether these companies are making illegal catches and overfishing our resources.
The Maritime Union ought to be supported in their calls for a review of the fishing industry, and applauded for the help they have given to overseas workers who remain outside of New Zealand channels of representation.
Furthermore, Phil Heatley, the National Party and these Kiwi companies encouraging the abuse of foreign workers ought to be answering some serious questions about undercutting Kiwi fisheries workers in a time of recession. The fisheries industry is worth around $1.4 billion a year, representing a wedge that should be pumped back into Kiwi jobs. Profit should not outweigh job opportunities or the law, or basic human rights.