Nine Chinese workers are still being detained at Mt Eden Prison and could be detained many weeks more because of changes to Chinese government policies that require two weeks in isolation in New Zealand before deportation.
They will then face three weeks in quarantine isolation in China at their own expense.
Unite Union says they should be released while an investigation is held into the systems of migrant labour exploitation and trafficking that have been allowed to grow in New zealand with the connivance of successive governments.
Unite have asked the Honorable Matthew Robson to act for the workers and he has drafted an appeal for their release to the three ministers responsible to follow the Migrant Exploitation Policy of the government and release the workers and allow them to assist to get to the bottom of the organised exploitation and human trafficking
Whole industries like construction are dependent on migrant workers. Every time the Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment does an audit of a particular industry (including construction) they have found a majority of employers were not compliant with New Zealand minimum legal labour law requirements.
Labour systems where all work is subcontracted, then subcontracted then subcontracted again are impossible to police.
Recently I attended a conference on migrant labour trafficking and exploitation at parliament. A key speaker was Rob Broadbridge Head of Contract Management for Chorus. Chorus who ran just this subcontractor model for the fibre rollout and engaged 900 subcontractors with 10,000 imported workers on temporary or no visas. Inevitably it was exposed that many workers were being paid less than their legal minimum entitlements. He was at this conference to say that they have learned lessons on how to improve their “supply lines” but even he had to admit that it was impossible to get information from staff when visas were still tied to the employer.
Employers are never prosecuted. Only workers who don’t have a valid visa get picked up, locked up and deported. We should be using the information we can obtain from these workers to expose and break up the systems of exploitation that exist.
But none of these workers would be able to work in New Zealand unless employers were routinely breaking the law.
No one would pay $20,000 like these nine workers have for visas to New Zealand unless the human traffickers are able to sell them a false dream of finding work easily without a work visa or that they could change their visa status after they arrived.
Unite Union asks New Zealanders to look at their own histories before criticising these workers.
How many of you have worked cash jobs or paid for work from tradies with cash? How many of you have done your OE and worked under the table jobs?
How many Kiwis are of Irish descent and can tell stories of their forebears or themselves travelling the globe and working in construction over the last 200 years under various visa statuses because they want their families back home to be able to survive.
Do we think that the one million Kiwis living and working overseas at the moment should be thrown in prison for minor visa violations?
The 9 Chinese workers are not criminals, they are victims of migrant labour exploitation and should be allowed to help us expose that . Even one of the prison staff was moved to comment that “we have enough people here who don’t want to work, why lock up someone who does?”