Crack down on exploitation of migrant workers needed


In 2016 I wrote an article about the the need to stop the exploitation of migrants to New Zealand. It came at a time when the then Prime Minister of New Zealand John Key was in India to talk free trade. I lamented the loss of the opportunity Mr Key had to talk to his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi about the exploitation of Indian workers here.

In 2018, I wrote another. This time it was about Filipino workers being exploited. In their case the agency that handled their visa had taken the money they paid – in the thousands of dollars – and disappeared.

This supposedly fair New Zealand is – to put it politely – pussy footing around the issue of exploitation of migrant workers. Surprisingly, despite the potential harm it will cause New Zealand when exploited workers go home with tales of abuse and how they were poorly treated by the authorities, neither of the major political parties seem to be dreadfully interested in reform.

The Labour Inspectorate is a toothless tiger in the instance of Ravi Arora, an Indian businessman who owns a several liquor stores around New Zealand, a $3.6 million house and has $36 million assets including two motels. Mr Arora has also racked up an extensive list of complaints from workers who allege exploitation under New Zealand labour laws. Despite 19 investigations, he continues to run businesses

I have no doubt that unless Mr Arora is either arrested or deported he will continue to set up, or acquire, liquor businesses so that he can continue to engage in exploitative practices. The fact that Mr Arora has offloaded business interests to avoid being linked to further exploitation claims, that he is using his wife as a contact tells me he has no qualms about the illegal nature of what he is engaging in.

Mr Arora is not the the only person who has been found wanting in their treatment of migrant workers in New Zealand. Mohan Reddy who owns liquor stores in Auckland was found wanting in 2019 over the treatment of seven migrant workers.

However not all is lost. The Government is working on law changes that will assist exploited workers in leaving their jobs with repercussions, clamp down on rogues and disqualify those convicted of exploitation from being directors or managers of a company.

It remains to be seen whether the coming law changes will have any real impact on the offenders as they are largely related to helping the victims of the exploitation. This is obviously fair enough, except that a strong clear message needs to be sent to those in a position to employ people that New Zealand expects better from its business owners than what the likes of Mr Reddy and Mr Arora have been prepared to offer their exploited staff.

It is not okay to exploit people in New Zealand. People who move here thinking that because they could get away with improper practices in their country of origin need to understand that New Zealand authorities are for the most part not corrupt. And New Zealanders as a general rule, have an expectation that this will be understood and respected.