New Zealand: Migrant workers widely exploited in horticulture, hospitality & other sectors, new study finds

Migrant worker 72dpi

(photo credit: University of Auckland)

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Article
17 October 2017

New Zealand: Employers blacklisted by govt. for exploiting workers

Author: Teuila Fuatai, Newsroom (NZ)

"Blacklisted for exploiting migrant workers in NZ", 5 October 2017

More than 70 migrant-exploiting employers from a range of industries have made [the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment]'s latest blacklist of law-flouting companies.

The list, released...- six months since employers were threatened with tougher penalties for failing to meet minimum employment standards for migrant workers - indicates almost no industries are immune to wage and labour theft in New Zealand...73 businesses of all sizes and types were caught by the labour inspectorate scamming migrant workers...

As part of the tougher rules, those businesses have been banned from hiring migrant workers for at least six months... 

University of Auckland professor Christina Stringer, whose 2016 research highlighted abuse of migrant workers’ rights in New Zealand, believed MBIE’s blacklist was the first step in tackling problems of migrant worker exploitation.

Of the 73 companies identified by the labour inspectorate for violations in [the] list, about two-thirds operated in the construction/trades, food and horticulture industries...

[refers to Mainfreight, Direct Auto Importers and BBS Horticulture]

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Article
12 September 2017

New Zealand: Research supports need for new legislation to protect against worker exploitation

Author: New Zealand Herald

"Workers treated like 'modern slaves'", 11 September 2017 

...Migrant workers who had fallen victim to exploitation and human trafficking in New Zealand relayed disturbing accounts...in a two-year, 105-person-interview study.

They claimed their movements were restricted and they'd been forced to work up to 18 hours a day, living in overcrowded, sub-standard accommodation. Some said New Zealand authorities had refused to listen to pleas for help.

[University of Auckland Business School researcher Dr Christina Stringer] says her research showed the two worst industries for worker exploitation were horticulture and hospitality: "In horticulture, people are routinely paid less than the minimum wage and they agree just to get a job - some paid as little as $5 an hour; some employers threaten to report them to Immigration NZ if they complain...".

Stringer, an associate professor in International Business, is also an advocate for New Zealand's adoption of a Modern Slavery Act, currently being considered in Australia.

Such legislation, she says, not only covers workers' rights and guards against human trafficking, it imposes a new level of responsibility on businesses to ensure they are not, knowingly or unknowingly, playing a role in such exploitation...

[refers to 7-Eleven, Domino's Pizza & Air New Zealand]

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Article
28 August 2017

New Zealand: New report reveals unsafe work conditions for Filipino workers on farms

Author: Sarah Robson, Radio New Zealand

"Report reveals farm conditions faced by Filipino workers", 19 August 2017

...A new report, authored by former MP Sue Bradford and commissioned by the Union Network of Migrants, has highlighted concerns about health and safety, and employment standards, for Filipino migrants working in the dairy industry...

The report is based on interviews with...Filipino migrants working on dairy farms... New Zealand workers also raised concerns and said they often worked 20-hour days and used heavy machinery without proper breaks or time off...

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Article
28 July 2017

New Zealand: Authorities look overseas for answers as human trafficking and worker exploitation become more common in the country

Author: Mei Heron

"Human Trafficking 'definitely a problem' in NZ" RNZ New Zealand, 27 July 2017

Authorities are looking overseas for answers as they acknowledge human trafficking and exploitation are starting to become a much larger problem in New Zealand...

Labour Inspectorate general manager George Mason said worker exploitation was starting to become more common in New Zealand. "It's important that the government's able to come together with business, with civil society, [and] with NGOs to deal with a problem which is actually manifesting in New Zealand whether we like to acknowledge that or not."...it was hard to quantify how large the problem was, Mr Mason said.

"It's revealing itself through the work of the Labour Inspectorate and the industry itself is doing...only now getting our heads around the fact that it is here and we do have to deal with it...increasingly evident that in particular pockets it can be substantial, it's not really possible to put numbers around it, but it is definitely a problem that we have to address."

The British organisation Unseen played a major part in drafting and promoting the UK Modern Slavery Act...Director Justine Currell said that's been an important step in her country's fight against trafficking and exploitation...[NZ] Immigration Minister Michael Woodhouse said "I'd like to watch and see how it goes in the next year or two"...

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Article
25 July 2017

New Zealand: Migrant workers in kiwifruit picking prone to exploitation including below minimum wages, says govt. report

Author: Jacob McSweeny, RNZ New Zealand

At least half of the kiwifruit contractors who have been audited or investigated in Bay of Plenty have failed to provide employment contracts or pay the minimum wage, a Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) report found

He said the majority of migrant workers he knew of working in kiwifruit picking in the Bay of Plenty were Indians and Filipinos.

[Union Network of Migrants national organiser Dennis Maga]…said the reason those migrants accepted such poor working conditions was because they were often desperate…

[Council of Trade Unions general counsel Jeff Sissons]…said almost 50 percent of the agriculture, forestry and fishing industries' workforces were migrant workers and he believed some were not speaking out about dodgy employers because they were scared to lose their job…

Labour Inspectorate regional manager Kevin Finnegan said their investigation found more than half of the companies they looked into were failing to provide the minimum wage, correct holiday pay or simply giving workers written contracts…

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Article
5 June 2017

New Zealand: Labour inspectorate finds migrant workers widely exploited in nail bars & beauty salons

Author: Talia Shadwell, Stuff Business Day

"Authorities accuse beauty salons of breaching employees' rights, as migrant workers complain of long hours and abuse"

...All around the country, beauty parlours dot the urban landscape. Walk-in salons pop up every few paces around the country's malls. But questions are being raised over just who is paying the price for their trade, as the labour inspectorate unearths "concerning" working conditions – finding nail and beauty salons under-paying employees who are often migrant women. Advocates are demanding nationwide monitoring of imported beauty labour: they say the true cost of Kiwi women's bargain beauty-hunting habits is underpaid, overworked and even sexually harassed salon workers...Auckland salon Kaya Beauty Plus Limited has been taken to the Employment Relations Authority, accused of owing workers minimum wage arrears, not paying holiday pay after employment finished, and not paying public holiday rates. The company's director Kamal Kaur vigorously denies all allegations...The business was among five nail and beauty salons the Labour Inspectorate had investigated in Auckland in the the past three years – all triggered by complaints, and many tending to involve migrant workers and employees, northern labour inspectorate chief David Milne said...Union Network of Migrants leader Dennis Maga said he had been told by some women who came to Wellington and Auckland on visas sponsored by beauty spas they were being pressured into providing sexual favours...they rarely told authorities, fearing their employer could get them deported... Wellington's Infuse Beauty Spa director Helene Brownie said she has previously hired three migrant workers who applied for jobs with her secretively – telling her they needed a new sponsor as they were trying to escape exploitative salons and feared deportation...An Auckland University study into worker exploitation last year found evidence of modern-day slavery in New Zealand, particularly among migrant workers in the dairy, construction and hospitality industries...A new law means employers caught exploiting migrant workers can be banned from hiring migrants for at least two years. Maga and Stringer both believe government agencies should also proactively monitor businesses that import migrant beauty workers.

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Report
14 December 2016

Worker Exploitation in New Zealand: A Troubling Landscape

Author: Christina Stringer, University of Auckland (NZ); The Human Trafficking Research Coalition (NZ)

This research found that non-compliance with employment legislation was common particularly in  the horticulture and hospitality industries…While many of the empirical findings have focused on the experience of temporary migrants, non-compliance is not just restricted to migrant workers, as New Zealand born citizens are also subject to exploitation.  Many temporary migrants tolerate exploitation so they can qualify for permanent residency or because they were coerced and/or deceived by their employer.  They may also tolerate the situation because of power imbalances (perceived or actual) or because of limited options available to them.  Some pay their own salaries to obtain residency.  Worker exploitation is widespread in terms of industry sectors and/or visa categories, with much of it remaining hidden.  The findings of this report, which highlight and uncover areas of significant concern, deserve urgent attention.

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Article
14 December 2016

Worker exploitation widespread in New Zealand – new study

Author: Nicola Shepheard, University of Auckland

The study [“Worker exploitation in New Zealand: a troubling landscape”] - the most wide-ranging of its type to date – suggests exploitation of migrant and New Zealand-born workers is widespread across many key industries, including horticulture, hospitality and construction. The most common forms of exploitation reported were: Excessive working hours sometimes without breaks -  up to 18-hour shifts, and 80-90 hour weeks; No pay or severe under-payment with some temporary migrants being paid for only half of the hours worked, or earning as little as $4-$5 an hour; No holiday pay; No employment contracts; Taxes deducted but not paid to the Inland Revenue; Degrading treatment: being sworn at or insulted, denied bathroom breaks, verbal or physical abuse and threatened abuse, restriction of movement; Cash-for-residency schemes, in which workers paid cash to their employers, which was returned to them as their “wage” – viewed as “normal” in some circles.  Patterns of exploitation varied from industry to industry.

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