'Window dressing': Sealord criticised for efforts to hire Kiwis

A Sealord fishing boat at sea. Photo: RNZ
A Sealord fishing boat at sea. Photo: RNZ
Sealord is being accused of not making a genuine effort to employ New Zealanders to work on the two Russian-owned trawlers it charters.

One of the conditions it needed to fulfil before it was allowed to take on foreign crews, was advertising the positions here and showing that no New Zealanders were available to do these jobs.

An ad in October told prospective employees on the two Russian trawlers, they would be doing "the same repetitive task" the "entire time" they were out at sea.

They would need to be able to cope with the "continuous workload" that happened from the minute they left port to when they returned, and repeated the fact they would be at sea for six months, with no mention of any time off.

Compare that to an ad for a place on one of the seven trawlers it owned that were mostly crewed by New Zealanders.

No monotonous work without end on these vessels.

Instead it proclaimed "no two days are ever the same", talked of fishing trips varying from two to six weeks, with the equivalent amount of time off, on full pay, once you got back to shore.

There were "three delicious meals a day" (the Russian trawlers also supplied meals but there was no mention of how good they were), a free flu jab and free internet access while at sea.

The Merchant Service Guild union represents officers on fishing boats.

General secretary Helen McAra said the ad was clearly designed to put New Zealanders off from applying.

"They just seem like window dressing. Just seems a half hearted attempt to show immigration that they've tried to find New Zealanders before they're granted hundreds more work permits for foreign crew," McAra said.

She also could not understand why an ability to communicate in Russian was stipulated in the ad as being "an advantage".

"We can't make that out. We don't know why it should be undesirable if people don't speak Russian. The ships are working in New Zealand, shouldn't the working language of the ship be English if it's working in New Zealand waters?"

Sealord general manager of operations, Doug Paulin. Photo: RNZ
Sealord CEO Doug Paulin. Photo: RNZ
Sealord chief executive Doug Paulin agreed the ads made it sound as if his company was not really interested in attracting New Zealanders to work on the Russian trawlers.

He hadn't asked why the ads were worded that way, however, he had asked that they be changed, he said.

A week ago new ads were put up online, describing a job with a "great work-life balance" with eight hours on and eight hours off.

There was an opportunity to develop a career in the industry "including gaining qualifications while you work" in what was an opportunity "not to be missed".

"It was brought to my attention because I was unaware up until that stage, that the recruitment ads were very different in terms of those two vessels and our other vessels, in a way which I think glorified some roles and made other roles seem less attractive. So now all of our advertising has been reworked."

However, so far the ads have not made a difference.

Paulin said none of the 30 New Zealanders they had recently hired had opted to work on the Russian trawlers.

"Most New Zealanders don't want to spend that amount of time at sea. So the lifestyle of six months at sea doesn't really suit them. If they want to go to sea and they have a choice, then they're choosing shorter trips."

Last month Sealord, Independent and Maruha Nichiro were granted permits to employ 570 foreigners on their boats.

Minister of immigration Kris Faafoi said that was for one season only and was on condition of the industry committing to "removing barriers to employing New Zealanders" in these roles "including reviewing pay".

The Ministry of Health said the last of the Russian crew at the Sudima isolation facility left yesterday.

However, the arrival of the next charter flight from Russia was "still to be confirmed".

Comments

Another industry that has exploited the free market to its advantage and the disadvantage of NZers who for some obscure reason might want to make a career in theis god forsaken exploitative industry. And fair enough, maximising profits is what it is all about for them. No thought to contingency planning when the day comes that the free market doesn't operate to their advantage anymore. No, why indeed would they when they can call on the NZ Taxpayer to bail them out.
Again, I've said it before, your lack of planning is not my problem. Sort this mess out yourselves.

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