New law in New Zealand set to crackdown on exploitation of foreign workers

by Ray Clancy on November 21, 2013

A bill to crack down on employers in New Zealand who exploit migrant workers and to improve the effectiveness of the country’s immigration system has passed its first reading in Parliament.

The Immigration Amendment Bill (No 2) forms part of a package of actions the government is taking to address the exploitation of migrants. It follows changes in June to encourage victims of exploitation to come forward without fear of being penalised.


Under the new bill, employers who exploit migrant workers could face a jail sentence of up to seven years, a fine not exceeding $100,000, or both.

Under the Bill, employers who exploit migrant workers will face a jail sentence of up to seven years, a fine not exceeding $100,000, or both. Migrant employers could also face deportation if the offence was committed within 10 years of gaining residence.

‘Unscrupulous employers not only harm their staff, but also gain an unfair competitive advantage over good employers competing for business. The government is taking tough action to tackle the issue and send the message that migrant exploitation will not be tolerated in New Zealand,’ said Immigration Minister Michael Woodhouse.

‘The fundamental and overriding principle is that migrant workers have the same employment rights and protections as all other workers in New Zealand. This is particularly important in the context of the government’s commitment to rebuilding Christchurch where immigration plays a key role in boosting the supply of workers required,’ he pointed out.

The Bill also extends the search powers of immigration officers so they can search an employer’s premises and talk to the people present to identify offending by employers. They will also be able to search for unlawful workers, check documents and ensure migrant employees are complying with the Act.

Meanwhile, the Engineering, Printing and Manufacturing Union is opposing a plan by Air New Zealand to put non-New Zealanders into skilled jobs. The airline has applied to the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment for renewed accreditation to employ people from overseas.

The ministry has sent an email to unions requesting feedback on the submission and the EPMU has written to the ministry opposing the application, saying maintenance jobs are being lost throughout the country and locals could fill the roles that are still on offer.

It pointed out that last year, 40 jobs including in engineering were axed at the Christchurch Engine Centre, a joint venture involving Air New Zealand, and in August, the airline announced it will cut 180 engineering maintenance staff in Auckland by the middle of next year. New Zealand subsidiary Safe Air, which provides aircraft maintenance, also recently announced 69 jobs losses in Blenheim.

In a statement, Air New Zealand said that the jobs it is trying to fill are highly specialised and it would be difficult to find people for them within New Zealand. They include university qualified avionic engineers, software automation test engineers and design engineers.



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