NZ govt denounces foreign worker exploitation during Canterbury rebuild

by Ray Clancy on May 29, 2014

Thousands of overseas workers are attracted to Canterbury in New Zealand due to a surge in job creation connected with the city’s rebuild following the recent earthquakes.

But according to government ministers it is also creating conditions where foreign workers are being exploited, including being underpaid for their experience and skills.


The NZ govt will boost the number of labour inspectors and immigration officers over the next 4 years

As a result the government is spending more than $7 million over the next four years to boost the number of labour inspectors and immigration officers dealing with the Canterbury rebuild.

The money will be used to fund an additional six labour inspectors and seven immigration staff, including three compliance officers and two investigators, and will result in an extra 20 investigations of serious or high profile cases over an initial 18 month period.

It will also deliver an employment standards audit programme for businesses associated with rebuild activity.

The Canterbury rebuild is one of the government’s four main priorities. This extra money shows how seriously it takes migrant exploitation, according Labour Minister Simon Bridges and Immigration Minister Michael Woodhouse.

‘The absolute bottom line is that migrant workers have the same employment rights and protections as all other workers in New Zealand. It is unlawful for employers to pay their employees less than the minimum wage, or not properly pay them for their work,’ said Bridges.

Woodhouse explained that as the Christchurch rebuild gains momentum and migrant worker numbers rise, the Government is committed to equipping Immigration New Zealand and the Labour Inspectorate with the resources they need.

‘This government is determined to do whatever it takes to stamp out any unlawful practices and provide assurances that maintain our international reputation. A number of measures have already been taken to tackle migrant exploitation,’ said Woodhouse.

These include a change introduced in June last year under which migrants who report genuine incidents of serious workplace exploitation will be allowed to remain in New Zealand until they apply for a visa.

A new Bill that imposes tough penalties on employers who exploit migrant workers who are legally entitled to work in New Zealand is currently going through Parliament. The maximum penalty is a jail sentence of up to seven years, a fine not exceeding $100,000, or both.



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