New Zealand Law Society - Fishing firm penalised for exploitation of workers

Fishing firm penalised for exploitation of workers

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A Japanese fishing company chartered by a New Zealand business has been ordered to pay more than $180,000 in arrears and penalties following a Labour Inspectorate investigation that found serious employment breaches.

The Employment Relations Authority (ERA) has made the order against Watarai Company Ltd for serious breaches of minimum employment standards while its vessel, Koshin Maru 7, was chartered by New Zealand Japan Tuna Company Ltd in New Zealand waters between 1 May and 23 June 2015.

The amount imposed includes $97,715 for minimum wage entitlements, a penalty of $80,000 and $2,071 for costs incurred by the Labour Inspector pursuing the case.

“While the registration and chartering arrangements met New Zealand legislation requirements, the investigation uncovered clear exploitation of 18 Indonesian crew who were employed by Watarai for the fishing operation in New Zealand waters,” says Labour Inspectorate fishing industry lead, Jeanie Borsboom.

The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Enterprise (MBIE) says the company’s wage and time records were not compliant and the wages the crew received did not match the wages they were entitled to, based on true hours worked. The Labour Inspector calculated the crews’ wages based on notes provided by a Ministry of Primary Industries observer on board the Koshin Maru 7 and an analysis of work patterns.

“It is very disappointing to see New Zealand operations which do not meet minimum labour standards in such a significant manner and put at risk a hard won reputation for sustainability in our fishery. This is particularly notable when it’s estimated the catch sale price of stock caught by the Koshin Maru 7 was at least $2,500,000,” says Ms Borsboom

The NZ Japan Tuna Company’s shareholders are New Zealand fisheries companies Solander Blue Fin Tuna Company and Sanford. This is the second time in less than a year that a Japanese owned boat chartered by NZ Japan Tuna Company has been penalised by the ERA. Last July Japanese fishing company Ikeda Suisan Company was penalised $40,000 for breaching employment law while fishing around New Zealand in mid-2015 after having paid arrears of $82,252.

Since targeting the fishing industry in 2015, the Labour Inspectorate has issued seven improvement notices of which six required payment of arrears totalling $727,937.