Errant stores dragging liquor industry down

A business that operates bottle stores and a dairy in Auckland has been heavily fined after the Labour Inspectorate found it to be in substantial breach of New Zealand labour laws. The business which was taken to the Employment Relations Authority by seven migrant workers who complained about their working conditions, lack of pay and accommodation arrangements was ordered to pay $196,542 – $96,542 in wages owed and a $100,000 penalty.

This is the latest in a string of liquor store violations of employment law or some aspect of their liquor licence. The Labour Inspectorate notes that 60 stores have been found wanting because of such breaches since 2012.

It was not said in the article whether Mr Reddy would be stripped of his managers licence. Irrespective, I do believe he should be made to undertake correctional training under supervision with a warning about long term consequences if further violations come to light.

What really bothers me is the number of people in this industry, but also the hospitality sector who are not from New Zealand and yet seem to think that because the authorities in their country of origin were corrupt, that ours will be too. More to the point, I wonder what it would take to get the message home to prospective managers from other countries, that compliance with New Zealand law is not something they have a choice about.

12 stores in the Bottle-O chain are currently facing investigations into alleged abuses of New Zealand law.

Without suggesting that the owner of the franchise is culpable, such a large number of stores being simultaneously investigated by the Labour Inspectorate does raise some serious questions about the culture of those places.

I believe that the communities in which they operate deserve to know whether these stores are compliant with New Zealand law. Stores that are found to have breached the law, should be made to display a notice in their front window for 12 months noting that they are in breach. The notice should mention what the breach was and should only be able to be taken down by a Labour Inspectorate staff member at the end of the notice period and assuming that no further violations occur in that time.

Should they commit further offences, their trading licence should be suspended until such a time as the Labour Inspectorate is satisfied that the operators are now fully compliant. Any further abuse of the law following that should be construed as a third strike and the offending premises shuttered.


Backtracking on fishing boat camera’s is a cop out

Minister of Fisheries, Stuart Nash is having second thoughts about installing cameras on fishing boats following criticism from the industry. His change of heart comes after a letter accusing him of reacting to hysteria is made known to the public.

This is a cop out. The fisheries industry is simply scared that the many claims of bad practices, maltreatment of staff and non-compliance with regulations around reporting catches will be found out and that they will be made to clean their act up.

It is also disappointing that a party that traditionally supports human rights is back tracking on a measure that will help stamp out the illegal practices that are known to be going on. It will help put some credibility back into an industry whose reputation is going to be tarnished by this if the minister drops the surveillance camera programme.

New Zealand cannot afford to let its reputation as the “Wild West” of the high seas continue. It erodes the confidence that international and domestic customers can have that our fish are caught properly and in compliance with best environment, labour and regulatory practices.

We are a first world country, not a third world country. We have obligations under international and domestic law that need to be upheld and which other nations can subject New Zealand to scrutiny on. Each time the United Nations send a special rapporteur over or the periodic report show casing progress and answering criticisms is delivered to the U.N. Human Rights Committee, this is something that we can be potentially challenged on.

New Zealand needs to understand that people are starting to become aware of issues with supply chains and their role at the end of those chains as consumers. This is why for example there were concerns a few years ago about live sheep exports to Saudi Arabia, a country not known for having a strong animal rights record. The concerns that the sheep would die en route and that the carcasses would be a health hazard by the time they reached a Saudi port were credible.

The same awareness is becoming true of fisheries both inside and outside of New Zealand. It is exacerbated by the fact that our fisheries have boats operating in them crewed by non-New Zealanders. They have reported on numerous occasions mistreatment, non-compliance with records and other problems. The ships captains and executive officers have been known to be hostile towards third party observers being on board.


Labour laws in for a shake up – guess who is leading the review?

Former Prime Minister Jim Bolger has been appointed the chair of a panel tasked with exploring our labour laws and determining what sort of overhaul they need. The panel, which was announced by Minister for Workplace Relations Iain Lees-Galloway, will report back by Christmas on the design on what Labour calls Fair Pay Agreements.

The irony is significant given that Mr Bolger was in office in 1991 when National introduced the Employment Contracts Act to New Zealand. This act had the effect of causing a significant and rapid drop in the number of people who were members of a union. Employees could choose to work under a collective contract or an individual contract. Bargaining was entirely voluntary because unions were sidelined as negotiations were directly between employer and employee.

The irony grows when one considers one of the Ministers working for Mr Bolger in that National-led Government was Ruth Richardson, who introduced the hugely unpopular “Ruthenasia” of social welfare in New Zealand. This had the effect of significantly weakening the Government social welfare. support for all who either through their own hands or circumstances beyond their control

The division over whether the E.C.A. succeeded in making New Zealand more productive is at times bitter. Australian economist Wolfgang Kasper for example said that the level of productivity had improved significantly. as had subsequent economic flexibility.

However there is no concrete evidence to support this. An article by Brian Easton in the New Zealand Listener found that on the contrary, there was only modest growth in productivity. Others pointed out the systematic dismantling of the social welfare net, the absence of significant growth in wages, compared with countries like Australia.

Prior to Mr Bolger’s National-led Government introducing the E.C.A., the 1973 Industrial Relations Act and the much earlier (1894)Industrial Conciliation and Arbitration Act had been pushed through the New Zealand Parliament. The 1973 legislation was an attempt to consolidate an array of outdated and inefficient Acts of Parliament, and was spurred on by widespread industrial unrest in 1968.

Not surprisingly, there is resistance to the latest round of labour law reforms, coming from business circles. Whilst Business New Zealand have indicated they will be constructive in their involvement with the panel, a spokesperson said that a chilling message was being sent to exporters that competition will be sacrificed in order to advance the interests of unions.

Let us see where the irony of this takes New Zealand. Whilst Mr Bolger will be seen by some as a slap in the face, compared with some of the social conservatives that exist today, his pragmatism will be welcome. I assume it will not be lost on the centre-left voters who have rallied in their thousands across country over the last several years trying to return New Zealand to a state of being where a welfare net was in place This would be a welfare net that can look after our very old, sick, our youngest and anyone else in circumstances beyond their control desperately seek assistance.

Immigration scams justify Immigration New Zealand revamp

New Zealand has a reputation as being a welcoming place, a believer of giving everyone a fair go. But what happens when those coming to New Zealand – a country with one of the highest transparency ratings in the world – still think that the corrupt ways of their country of origin are acceptable here?

Does Immigration New Zealand need a complete overhaul to its systems and the governing laws? Or are the governing laws fine and it is just a matter of compliance and enforcing the existing legal framework?

The number and range of scams involving the immigration of people in New Zealand from other countries justifies a complete overhaul of how migrant visas are handled in New Zealand. Migrants coming here, establishing immigration consultancies that then proceed to rip off unsuspecting migrants who come here genuinely thinking that they are taking the first steps to a better life in New Zealand, are more often than not of the same nationalities as the migrants that are getting ripped off.

In other words the visa holders being ripped off are more likely than not having it done to them by their own countrymen – I will not name nationalities, except to say they are numerous. When one looks at why, it is not difficult to draw the conclusion that this is how they would have operated in their own country and concluded that they could get away with it in New Zealand – not realizing, or caring that the authorities here are not corrupt.

This neatly brings me to the thrust of my argument. Let us establish a compulsory register of all immigration consultants in New Zealand and give all of the existing ones six months to register or be struck off as illegal. Amend the legislation governing immigration to require that all registering consultants sit and obtain N.Z.I. approved certificates stating their suitability to operate as a licensed agent in New Zealand. Have them resit the certificate every few years. A database on the Immigration New Zealand website should contain the list of all qualified agents, all agents that have been struck off.

But let me be clear. The Immigration New Zealand agency should have an in house monitoring/compliance/enforcement team that oversees the compliance of agents in the same way that migrant visas are monitored – field staff visit employers with migrant workers to make sure they are legitimate; serve compliance notices when issues are spotted and shut down non-compliant agents. The embassies we maintain in countries overseas will be advised of changes to the law; whether applicants for visas meet the requirements – of good character; no criminal record and so forth.

As for the poor education provided, that is up to the Ministry of Education to sort out non-compliant academies and so forth. Immigration New Zealand can supply them data on who is suspect and who is not, but shutting down a place of learning, unless it is run by people who had no right to be in New Zealand in the first place, should be a Ministry of Education task.

The enforcement needs to be uniform from start to end – if an agent is found to be a fraud, deport them; if a doctor is found to be bogus and not qualified, deport him/her; if the operator of an education academy or other academic institution is not legally supposed to be in New Zealand, deport them.. And tell them that they are not welcome back, with the words “Do Not Return” stamped in a prominent place on their passport.

New Zealand fisheries shame

The tuna that you eat might look good and taste good. But is the story of how it got to your plate nearly as good?

Not likely, as a Stuff investigation (see story of Tunago 61)into employment practices on ships fishing in New Zealand waters has found out. It would appear that even a decade after even more tragic events took place on the high seas off the east coast of the South Island that much is still to be learnt by the companies fishing in New Zealand waters.

In the early part of this decade trawlers operating out of Lyttelton were found to have almost slave like working conditions on board. The range of criminal offences ranged from sexual and physical assault to dishonesty about what was caught and how much, as well as dumping excess and non-compliance with an arrest order that was supposed to have one trawler tied up at port.

The trawlers involved were F.C.V.’s which were operated by Sajo Oyang Corporation from South Korea. They were under the command of Korean officers and often had an Indonesian crew. The captain of Oyang 75 was charged with a range of offences that took place on the ship that was under his command. During the trial period his ship put to sea in breach of the arrest order that was held against it. Fortunately a Royal New Zealand Navy ship was on exercises off the coast, spotted the ship and rearrested it.

Less fortunate was Oyang 70 which sank in stormy weather in the Southern Ocean taking three crew to the bottom with three more found dead in their life-jackets. An inquiry into what happened on Oyang 70 would find appalling work conditions contrary to what the crew who survived had been led to believe they would get.

At the time of the 2013 findings, a Bill of Parliament was before the House of Representatives to consider the necessity of flagging all fishing vessels with the New Zealand flag. Under maritime law, this would have made the crews of these ships immediately answerable to New Zealand authorities. The Bill of Parliament became an Act of Parliament in 2014.

I had hoped that the Foreign Chartered Vessel scandal of slave ships working the high seas off the coast of New Zealand was in a bygone era. However two articles of late have me second guessing myself

And then there is this. An investigation by Stuff into the tragic case of Tunago 61 and the deaths of two Indonesians on Fu Tzu Chiun, a long liner trawler that sailed from Taiwan, set against a grim backdrop of near certain slavery going on ships that have sailed from non-New Zealand ports, but which operate in New Zealand waters.

So, just ask yourself again:

Is that lovely tuna you are tucking into – or any other fish caugh commercially in New Zealand waters – the result of legitimate fishing activities, or the work of modern day slaves?