The Council of Trade Unions has today welcomed Government announcements to penalise employers of migrant workers in certain circumstances and also provide migrant workers with greater protection if they raise a claim of exploitation.
The Minister of Immigration, Michael Woodhouse has today released an outline of legislation and other steps to prevent exploitation of migrant workers. This includes a specific offence to apply where employers exploit workers who are holding a temporary work visa.
Penalties could include deportation of the employer in some cases.
In addition in cases of serious workplace exploitation a policy change will now in some cases mean that a migrant worker raising a complaint will be allowed to remain in New Zealand while the claim is investigated.
Peter Conway, CTU Secretary, says “these measures will make it easier for migrant workers to speak up about exploitation and more likely that employers will face prosecution.”
Peter Conway says that those employers that run a business based on exploitation of migrant workers need to face the consequences.
“We will need to ensure that the measures announced today are effective as there still appears to be plenty of room for discretion”.
He noted that recent moves to ensure better treatment for fishing crew on foreign charter vessels, and a major prosecution by the Government against a restaurant chain employing migrants on around $4.00 an hour are signs that the long awaited crackdown on such abuse is happening.
Peter Conway says that recently he and the Northern Employers and Manufacturers Association met with the Minister of Labour to discuss abuse of migrant workers and proposals for stronger penalties for employers that deliberately breach the Minimum Wage Act and Income Tax Act as well as immigration regulations.
“I hope to see further legislation on these issues”.
Peter Conway says “unfortunately the Government is undermining these positive moves in respect of migrant workers by removing rights from all workers. A migrant worker can be employed for the first 90 days on an agreement which removes any right of appeal against unfair dismissal and the Government is also trying to pass legislation that reduces wages and conditions by significantly reducing collective bargaining rights.”