Labour is calling for an investigation into the alleged exploitation of workers at Hutt Railway workshops, hired to repair asbestos-riddled DL locomotives.
Hutt South Labour MP Trevor Mallard has written to the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment asking that labour inspectors look into the employment situation of engineers brought in from China to work on the Chinese-built trains.
“My understanding is that a number of Chinese railway engineers dealing with the asbestos issue are being paid well below the minimum wage. The figure quoted to me was $3 per hour but I have also heard $US40 per day.
“That is exploitation and it is illegal.
“Other workers concerned for the engineers have been bringing food to work for them and hosting them for meals in the evening.”
The trains were pulled from service earlier this year after asbestos was found in engine bay doors and soundproofing in the cabs.
“At the time KiwiRail said the asbestos was under three layers of paint and unless a crash or fire released the particles, drivers were safe from its effects.
“However, drivers involved in test runs of the locos after they have been ‘repaired’ are still required to wear masks. The Government has said it was cracking down on migrant abuse in Christchurch, as the rebuild gears up. It now needs to ensure similar exploitation is not going on in its own back yard.
“These locomotives could have been built at the Hutt workshops, wagons could have been built at Hillside in Dunedin. Instead the government outsourced the work and at the same time purchased Chinese-made wagons which have bent out of alignment and are now being repaired in Picton.
“Special weathering steel - with potential quality issues – also imported from China is also being used by KiwiRail on bridge construction.
“This catalogue of disaster is a direct result of the Government’s short-sighted ‘cheapest at best’ procurement policy. Kiwi manufacturers and workers are among the best in the world and deserve a level playing field for procurement contracts.”