Recent reports that wages and working conditions are plummeting for seasonal migrant workers in New Zealand reveal the Government’s failure to adequately protect migrant workers from exploitation, says Labour’s Immigration and Workplace Relations spokesperson Iain Lees-Galloway.
“The exploitation of seasonal workers from the Pacific Islands is a direct result of National’s refusal to give the Labour Inspectorate the resources they need. There is no Labour Inspector based in the Marlborough region despite the high use of migrant workers.
“Some workers report that they receive only $200 a week after deductions, much less than what they’d signed up for. It’s the Government’s duty under law to ensure that the deductions are for ‘actual, reasonable, verifiable expenses’ but they’re not resourcing the Labour Inspectors to protect workers from unreasonable deductions.
“When the Recognised Seasonal Employer (RSE) scheme began in 2007, six Labour Inspectors and six Compliance Officers were responsible for monitoring and supporting up to 5000 workers.
“Today up to 10,500 migrant workers are employed under the scheme yet there are no additional Labour Inspectors or Compliance Officers available to ensure that those workers are being paid properly or that their working conditions meet minimum legal standards.
“Advocates for seasonal migrant workers report that the Labour Inspectors will only enforce minimum wage requirements. It appears that Labour Inspectors will not investigate claims that workers haven’t received the pay rates stipulated in their employment agreements or any other complaints about their working conditions such as deductions made from their pay.
“The work of pro-actively monitoring RSE employers and ensuring the workers get what they are entitled to is clearly beyond the under-funded Labour Inspectorate.
“The Government is failing these workers, who come to New Zealand to support key New Zealand agriculture industries. Immigration & Workplace Relations Minister Michael Woodhouse must secure a significant boost to funding for the Labour Inspectorate in the upcoming budget.
“Anything less gives rogue employers the green light to carry on exploiting migrant workers so long as National remains in Government,” says Iain Lees-Galloway.