It’s OK to have a few slaves, just not too many? Minimum wage loophole hasn’t gone away

New Zealand still needs legislation to ensure adult New Zealanders are not exploited by being taken on as contractors for less than the equivalent of the minimum wage, says Labour list MP David Parker. 

“My Minimum Wage (Contractor Remuneration) Amendment Bill was defeated by one vote this week – 61 to 60. The National party voted it down. They acknowledge it happens, but say it is not widespread enough to fix. This is like saying it’s OK to have a few slaves, just not too many!

“It remains a travesty that adult New Zealanders can be engaged as contractors and paid less than the minimum wage. Other countries like the UK apply the minimum pay rate to work, whether as an employee or a contractor. My Member’s Bill did the same. 

“Submitters made the point that closing the New Zealand loophole would help New Zealand meet its obligations as a member of the International Labour Organisation, whose rules member states should combat ‘disguised employment relationships’. 

“There is rising exploitation of low paid workers in New Zealand. They are disproportionately young, women, Māori and Pacific Island people. The large number of work-permitted foreign students are especially vulnerable to exploitation. Some are not even paid the equivalent of the minimum wage. 

“The sad fact is that in our country, which used to pride itself on being fair, it remains legal to exploit low paid workers this way. We will fix this when elected to government,” says David Parker.