It has come to my attention that a Chinese company wants nearly 200 visas for short term tradespeople to come to New Zealand and finish a hotel project in Auckland.
Questions should be asked nevertheless. Anyone handling such a major construction project should know that it will have substantial and complex labour requirements.
I have concerns about this. Will Chinese labourers and the company they work for:
- Adhere to New Zealand labour law
- Not take dangerous short cuts in building the hotel that might compromise the physical structure
- Pay them New Zealand wages instead of whatever they might get in China
My concerns stem from a complex set of interacting issues that have arisen in New Zealand’s building sector over the last few years. They include shoddy earthquake repairs in Christchurch and Kaikoura, overworking of labourers by some companies, the importation of questionable steel from China and comments by a few non-New Zealand employers suggesting that they do not care or respect New Zealand laws and the custom of this country.
That is not okay. And New Zealand criminal law should reflect this in its sentencing regime.
New Zealand immigration need to be careful handling this. 175 individual visas need to be processed, but I also assume at some point the eventual holders of those visas will be screened to determine their suitability for the job. How will we know the credibility of the applicant in terms of whether they have a criminal record, their qualifications? Will they have some sort of insurance cover in case of an accident at work, elsewhere, ill health or being a victim of crime?
I accept that it might not be possible to find that many trades people in New Zealand to do the work without slowing down other projects, such as those related to the earthquake recovery in Christchurch.
I expect that somehow the trades people that come will have to demonstrate knowledge of New Zealand building practices, occupational safety and health before they can start work on the site. I expect that this will be done in New Zealand under the supervision of Department of Labour staff and the expectations made clear. In making this expectation, it is appropriate that New Zealand Immigration, Department of Labour and appropriate agencies have oversight of such a large application for visas.