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Sanford rejects liability in wage dispute with Indonesian crew

Sanford chief operating officer Greg Johansson. (Photo Credit: NZ Innovation Council)

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Friday, May 15, 2015, 23:20 (GMT + 9)

One of New Zealand's largest fishing companies, Sanford, denies being legally responsible for NZD 2.6 million (USD 1.9 million) unpaid wages to 53 Indonesian fishermen working on a vessel chartered by the firm.
The attorney representing the crew members – working on the Pacinui vessel -- stated that the fishing firm could become the legal guarantor of the crew's wages if the court ruled in the workers' favour, The Timaru Herald reported.
However, sources consulted by pointed out Sanford disputes that view and considers those responsible are the ones who had hired them -- South Korean boat owners Juahm Industries.
"Sanford isn't the employer of the crew, we are the company which charters the vessels they worked on. The crew claims are between Juahm Industries and the crew members," the firm’s chief operating officer Greg Johansson claimed.
Meanwhile, a court ruling determined Juahm Industries had to produce employment and wage documents for the workers.
Referring to the vessel owners, the workers’ attorney accused them of offering bribes to the fishermen in exchange for agreeing to drop the case.
This is not the first time, Sanford is involved in such a case.
In 2013, the firm admitted that crew on another of its foreign charter vessels, owned by Korean Company Dong Won, had been underpaid.

"From investigations it became apparent to Sanford that not all monies remitted by Dong Won to Indonesian agents in the past for crew wages was passed on to the crew's families," Greg Johansson, then general manager operations at Sanford wrote.
In its 2014 annual report Sanford pointed out that: "There remain some outstanding concerns by ex-crew over wage claims, which our Charter partners are currently in mediation over. Sanford is keeping a watching brief on these and we expect their merits to be determined through the Employment Relations Authority processes."

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