We found this article posted on a very public forum on social media recently by former Sunday Star Times reporter Michael Field, who did most of the reporting in 2010-2014 about slavery on NZ foreign charter vessels.
Last month we published an article titled Foreign fishing crews still getting ripped off -
When I was writing The Catch (Awa 2014) I knew of dozens of cases where fishermen working New Zealand’s exclusive economic zone were grossly... underpaid and exploited by the fishing companies. Among them were around 500 mainly Indonesian men working for the South Korean companies Dong Won Fisheries Co Ltd, Juahm Industries Co Ltd and GOM Company Ltd.
The three companies were working under charter of Sanford Ltd, the NZX listed Auckland company controlled by the family of Peter Goodfellow, the chairman of the National Party. The 500 men eventually left their ship and eventually joined in a legal action seeking payment of wages entitled to them. A law suit was launched, seeking $17 million, which is about $34,000 for each man. This was a classic case of the poor man taking on big business. And, of course, they lost.
The fishing industry hired heavy hitting Queen Street lawyers and eventually the fishermen had to settle. With no admission that they had been exploited, the Koreans agreed to pay $3 million – about $6000 per man.
The Third World fishermen were mugged for around $28,000 each.
The Settlement Agreement published here was meant to be a secret. All sides agreed, at the cost of losing the deal, to not mention any of it.
As a journalist, I was interested in the paragraphs 4.1 and 4.2. They say that the lawyer for the fishermen will withdraw any Official Information Act applications they had to the Ministry of Business and Employment for documents. In addition, if they had already received such documents they agreed to destroy them.
I have applied to MBIE for the documents. It’s quite a process, over 6000 pages. One can see in the list that Sanford documents are included. MBIE have extended the time line on the process to provide the documents – and they have now further extended so that the documents cannot be released during the election campaign.
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