For years there has been a stain on New Zealand employers. It has been one that has been caused by a few cowboys with no understanding or regard for employment laws in this country. Migrant workers with no or little understanding of New Zealand work laws and conditions are being exploited by agencies paid to find them work. And that stain has become apparent once more as Filipino migrant workers on work visas in this country come forward and complain about work agencies that had been paid by the workers.
Complaints included, but were not limited to:
- Under payment
- Non compliance around following immigration policy
- Using migrants to drive down wages
- Workers being sent to the wrong job
It is not just Filipino workers who have been exploited though. Regularly reports come through of employers, some having migrated to New Zealand and established small businesses such as restaurants or convenience stores subjecting their employees – sometimes from the same country – to abuse and exploitative practices. Some, like the agencies implicated in abusing the Filipinos, have similarly little regard for New Zealand laws. Many are surprised when they find out that not only are New Zealand authorities not corrupt, but that the New Zealand public generally have higher expectations of what is acceptable.
There is nothing acceptable whatsoever about exploitation. The employers who willingly hire in the knowledge that they are going exploit their new workers have no place in the industry.
New Zealand Immigration needs to have a look at why a few employers seem so determined to ruin the country’s name as a good place to work just so they can have a quick and easy dollar. Those employers then need to be given an ultimatum: clean up or clear out. Prosecutions will be necessary in order to enforce the message that New Zealand is not a place where corruption is tolerated.
I am not sure if there are any plans to amend New Zealand employment law, but for persistent offenders it should not be possible to employ others. Potential employers need to be vetted by the Department of Labour and the Police to make sure there are no outstanding criminal convictions as well a character report supplied from previous employers.
Sadly, though, if one looks at the comments by people on articles on Facebook, many seem to believe that these migrant workers are taking all of New Zealand’s job opportunities. The same commentators also appear to believe that they are somehow responsible for their predicament, not wanting to acknowledge that being from other countries, they are not necessarily going to be aware of our laws, their rights or responsibilities. And New Zealand employers should know better than some clearly do than to exploit vulnerable workers.