Updated:March 23, 2021, 8:55 AM
Online petition started
Victoria, BC – Filipino-Canadian group Victoria Filipino-Canadian Association (VFCA), has started an online petition to reach out for support and to demand justice for the Filipino seafarers enslaved by Goundar Shipping in Fiji. The petition can be accessed via change.org:
According to the petition, 20 Filipino seafarers were scammed into travelling to Fiji by Goundar Shipping. The seafarers were employed to operate and maintain its fleets of passengers and cargo, but the company Goundar Shipping did not give these employees the salary, proper working conditions, and return flights that were promised.
Goundar Shipping Limited is hailed as a tycoon shipping company in Fiji. Mr. George Goundar, the managing director of Goundar Shipping Limited in Fiji, was a former BC Ferries employee. The petition also states that Goundar and his ‘eponymous’ shipping company has had several high profile business dealings in BC, including the sale of the Queen of Prince Rupert, Queen of Chilliwak, and most recently the Queen of Nanaimo.
The alleged scam and human trafficking of Filipino workers in Fiji has been long ongoing that by February 2021, many of the crew are 18 months over their contracts. Although these workers expressed going back home to the Philippines, they cannot afford to pay for their own return flights.
“It is deeply disturbing to think BC Ferries’ once proud vessels are being used for human trafficking”, the VFCA states in their petition.
Mr. George Goundar, in an interview in 2019 with Fiji Sun, has stated the need for more seafarers in Fiji, as he and his company expands shipping operations in the country. “The biggest problem in Fiji is that we do not have seafarers. We have so many vessels coming and I am short of 120 employees,” he said. https://fijisun.com.fj/2019/06/26/shipping-tycoon-george-goundar-invests-24-million-into- 9-passenger-vessels/
It was also in 2019 that the Maritime Safety Authority of Fiji Acting Chief Executive Officer, Captain Philip Hill, said in response to Mr. George Goundar and his company’s ways and process of getting the Filipino seafarers is “wrong”, that he should first come and discuss with the authorities the processing needs for Filipino workers in Fiji.
“There is no other shipping company that’s operating that is complaining about the shortage of seafarers, only his company”, Captain Hill said. He also explained there was more than enough registered seafarers in Fiji but not for the shipping companies’ needs and conditions that were up to par with employment regulations of seafarers.
Yet, despite the knowledge of Fiji’s Maritime Safety Authority on the labour issues associated with Goundar Shipping Limited, and the complicated processing of the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), Filipino seafarers all the way from the Philippines were duped to employment in Fiji to work at the Goundar Shipping company, according to the petition.
Working conditions have been bad, and when three former employees expressed they wanted to speak to the union representatives about their rights, they were fired, the petition states. And instead of providing return flights as promised by the company, these employees were not only fired but were also abandoned late at night with no access to food, transportation, or accommodation, leaving them instantly homeless, displaced, and jobless in Fiji.
The VFCA is now demanding that the Fijan government punish Goundar Shipping for its ongoing unethical labour practices and human rights violations and to suspend its operating licenses until they compensate the Filipino workers for unpaid wages and pay the return flights home.
The Victoria Filipino Canadian Association (VFCA) is a non-profit organization established on February 10, 1969, with the purpose to help new immigrants from the Philippines to adjust to the Canadian way of life. More information can be found on their website: https://www.bayanihan.ca/vfca