More modern day slavery has been uncovered in New Zealand, with the revelation that foreign welders are being paid $3 an hour and it’s legal.
Newshub can reveal four Indonesian welders working at a Napier sawmill have been getting paid little more than $3 an hour. It’s not illegal; in fact, our current visa rules allow it.
The welders have been putting in the hard yards – working at Napier Pine, where they sleep on-site in a converted shipping container. “We deserve to be treated exactly like the Kiwi worker. We are hard workers,” Santoso, one of the welders, says…
Santoso’s wages works out a just over $3 an hour.
The men’s passports were taken off them on arrival, and they say they’ve never seen an employment contract. The current immigration rules mean they don’t need one. “During this time, we never, ever have a contract or agreement,” Santoso says.
Another person has been working under similar arrangements since 2005, often working from 8am until 3 am the following day
The men came here on what’s called a “specific purpose” work visa to install specialised machinery. It’s normally a short-term visa. But they’ve been here nine months and Newshub has video of the men hammering in foundations and even driving forklifts around the site.
This excellent piece of investigative journalism has prompted Immigration New Zealand to review its procedure for issuing the Specific Purpose Visa, but because the men were supposed to install special equipment they didn’t need to be paid the minimum wage because they’re employed by an offshore employer, not a New Zealander.
According to the assistant general manager for Visa Services: Geoff Scott that means Immigration don’t have any influence over employment conditions or wages.
Napier Pine managing director Mr Mukti also said the underpayment was not his company’s responsibility. “We just give them some pocket money here if they want to buy something. But the company that sends them is the one that pays them.”
So Napier Pine technically hasn’t done anything wrong in terms of underpayment, but researcher Dr Glenn Simmons, who’s met the men, says he’s concerned their passports were taken. “Normally they’re retained simply as a control mechanism because individuals won’t move far from where their pass books are, even if they don’t possess them,” he says… you can read the full story here
So there you have it, modern day slavery exists in New Zealand and it’s all above board and legal.
Immigration New Zealand’s web site says this about the Specific Purpose Work Visa
This visa is for people who need to come to New Zealand for a specific purpose or event. To apply you’ll need to have skills related to your specific purpose or event and be able to define the time you’ll need to complete your specific purpose or event. Examples of people who may be able to apply include business people on secondments, sports players, professional coaches, specialist installers or services, and Philippines nurses seeking occupational registration.
Which means any of these occupations could have people working in similar conditions to the gentlemen above. Is anyone looking at the working conditions of Filipino nurses?
Turning a blind eye to slave labour
The INZ website says “installers and services (sic) of specialised machinery or equipment” are only permitted to stay in New Zealand for 3 months.
One has to ask why INZ isn’t policing its visa holders more closely, because not chasing up over-stayers, or having regard to wage payments, makes it look like the government is turning a blind eye to slave labour.
Another question should be how many of these visas are issued every year and for what occupations?
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