Following on from our Migrant Tale: Civil Engineer now cleaning ovens in New Zealand we thought this would be a good time to explore further the exploitation of migrant workers in New Zealand.
It seems that the National Distribution union has had concerns about this issue for some time and that some degree of fault may lay with the Department of Labour for not doing enough to police employment practices.
Hundreds of immigrants and some Kiwis are getting a raw deal from New Zealand employers and are being paid less than the minimum wage. According to the National Distribution union
Thirteen dollars an hour may be too little for New Zealand’s unions but there are some workers in our community who struggle to make even that.
According to National Distribution Union (NDU) secretary Robert Reid there are hundreds of vulnerable workers in New Zealand who are being left with little option other to work for less than minimum wage.
Mr Reid says those affected are mainly migrant workers who are too scared to complain about their situation.
The story was taken-up by 3 News earlier this year, Mr Reid said that some immigrants are being failed by a lack of policing of labour laws
“Just today I received a call from a migrant worker in the Auckland suburb of Northcote who stated that it was very difficult to find a job that was even paying the minimum wage,” he says.
This migrant from an Asian country contacted small shops and restaurants in Auckland which only offered between $7 and $10 per hour, says Mr Reid.
He says this is not uncommon, especially in Auckland.
“With this example they are just blatantly not paying minimum wage. “It is certainly an increasing problem, mainly for migrant workers who are very vulnerable and being exploited.”
He says the increase in cases is mainly due to the Department of Labour doing little to police it.
“The Department of Labour just doesn’t have enough inspectors left. It is now ultimately down to the Unions to police this and the unions only cover 20 percent of the work force.”
He went on to tell 3 News that many are afraid to speak out and that Asian and African workers are the most exploited
many who do not want to speak out are in fear of being sent home and that includes documented workers, who work here legally but are not permanent residents.
Overseas students are just one example of documented workers who are being exploited. Students can work up to 20 hours per week on their study visa.
“It seems to be lesser those from Europe and certainly more Asians and Africans who are being exploited,” says Mr Reid.
He says some of the migrant workers are undocumented but this is not an excuse to exploit them.
“If they are here they should not be exploited.”
Mr Reid says there is also a problem with large companies paying under minimum wage and using different allowances and bonuses to make up the difference.
“Some major New Zealand firms add shift and attendance bonuses to hourly rates below the minimum wage. They say that the Department of Labour has condoned this practice. The NDU believes the practice could be unlawful.” read the full report here
We’re always interested to hear about how migrants are treated in New Zealand, if you have a tale you’d like to tell please leave it in our comments section.
You may also be interested in: Skilled migrants asked to tell their NZ work stories