Foreign fishing crews working in New Zealand
Your work visa allows you to work in New Zealand waters until its expiry date. New Zealand has rules regarding your rights and responsibilities as an employee and foreign worker. It is very important you are aware of these.
Below are the basic legal rights of foreign fishing crew employed on foreign fishing vessels in New Zealand waters:
- You must have a written employment agreement and you must be given a copy of it in your own language. This will tell you what your pay is, how it is calculated, and when and how it will be paid. It will also detail the other terms and conditions of your employment, including what to do if you have a disagreement with your employer.
- You must be paid according to the terms and conditions detailed in your employment agreement. These terms and conditions must meet, or be better than, the minimum requirements imposed by Immigration New Zealand as a condition of granting you a work visa.
You must be paid at least the New Zealand minimum wage plus another NZ $2.00 an hour.
Note: As of 1 April 2011 the New Zealand minimum wage is NZ $13.00 per hour (before tax). The minimum wage is reviewed every year. You can check the current New Zealand minimum wage on our website or contact us on 0800 20 90 20 during working hours (9am – 5 pm; Monday – Friday).
The only deductions that can be taken from your pay are for:
- Food – deductions for food cannot be more than an amount equal to 10% of the minimum wage, calculated on the hours you have worked
- Visa fees – to check visa fees visit: www.immigration.govt.nz or call 0508 558 855 during business hours.
- The cost of your airfares to and from New Zealand, if this was paid by your employer.
Note: Deductions for food, visa fees and airfares are not allowed to reduce your pay below the New Zealand minimum wage, for the hours you have worked.
Note: Personal expenses, such as cigarettes and phone cards, are not treated as deductions and cannot be taken from your pay.
No other deductions can be taken from your pay. This includes lodging, entertainment or videos, health insurance and protective equipment or clothing.
- Check your employment agreement to find out what your pay is and how it is calculated. Remember, nothing in your employment agreement allows you to be paid less than the minimum pay.
- If you work on a foreign vessel, a New Zealand person or organisation will have guaranteed that you will be paid the minimum entitlements. If your employer refuses to pay you the minimum entitlements you can require the New Zealand person or organisation to pay them to you.
- If you are working on a New Zealand-owned vessel you may be entitled to extra pay for working public holidays, and to annual holiday pay. You should receive this after 12 months service or at the end of your employment. You may also be entitled to a payment if you cannot work because you are sick.
- You must be paid for all of the hours you work. Hours of work in the fishing industry can vary. Your employer must keep records of the hours you work, which you should sign. However, you are encouraged to keep your own record of the hours you work.
- You have the right to work in a safe environment. New Zealand does not tolerate violence against workers or unsafe working conditions. If you experience violence or unsafe working conditions you can complain to the Department of Labour or the Police. They will look into the complaint on your behalf.
- Your employment agreement will include a procedure for resolving any disputes you have with your employer. This includes any dispute over how much you are paid, or your living and working conditions. If you have an employment problem try to resolve it using these procedures.
- If you want to know more about these issues, have any other questions or want to make a complaint you can contact:
- The New Zealand company that charters the ship you work on
- The Department of Labour through our website: www.dol.govt.nz or call 0800 20 90 20 during business hours.
- The New Zealand Fishing Industry Guild (NZFIG) or other employee representative organisation. NZFIG is the union that acts for fishing crew. You can contact Bob McAlister at NZFIG on (09) 358 3013, email: NZFIGuild@xtra.co.nz or write to PO Box 90 212, Auckland.
Note: The Guild can act as your representative, or you can use another representative. To get help, you can contact Graham MacLaren at the International Transport Workers Federation on (04) 801 7613 or (021) 292 1782 or Maclaren_Graham@itf.org.uk.
You can only work for the employer and in the job stated in your work visa. If you work in any other job or for any other employer, you may become liable for deportation.
If you become liable for deportation, you must leave New Zealand. You can appeal the obligation to leave New Zealand to the Immigration and Protection Tribunal within 42 days of your visa expiring or within 28 days of being served a Deportation Liability Notice. If you do not lodge an appeal, you can be taken into custody and deported. This could mean you cannot come back to New Zealand in the future.
If you have any questions about your immigration status, contact the New Zealand company whose ship you are working on. Or contact Immigration New Zealand (a service of the Department of Labour) by calling 0508 558 855, emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or writing to PO Box 3773, Shortland St, Auckland.
Important things to remember
You cannot work on land or for another employer. Do not believe anyone who tells you otherwise. If you do so you may be removed from New Zealand and not allowed to return.
Report to your ship’s officers, or your New Zealand agent, any approach made to you from people suggesting you leave your work on the ship to work on shore.
Ensure your seaman’s book is always updated. You may require this information for future employment and work visa applications.