Bill to end exploitation must bite

Editorial Two

Michael Woodhouse – 

The Immigration Amendment Bill (No 2) which cracks down on employers who exploit migrant workers passed its final reading in Parliament on April 30, 2015.

I have been concerned about reports of migrant exploitation and am confident this new legislation will make a big difference in protecting some of our most vulnerable workers.

The fundamental principle is that migrant workers have the same employment rights as all other workers in New Zealand.

New Offence

Under the new law, employers who exploit temporary workers will face a jail sentence of up to seven years, a fine not exceeding $100,000, or both. A new offence has also been introduced for employers who exploit legal temporary or unlawful workers and are reckless as to their immigration status. This offence carries a jail sentence of up to five years, a fine not exceeding $100,000, or both.

In addition, exploitative employers who hold residence visas will also be liable for deportation if the offence was committed within 10 years of gaining residence.

The tough penalties reflect the seriousness of such offences and reinforces that this Government does not tolerate employers who exploit migrant labour for their own commercial advantage and will do everything possible to stamp out this abhorrent practice.

Search powers

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 check documents and search for unlawful workers.

The Government has already made a number of changes to detect and address migrant exploitation that encourages victims of serious workplace exploitation to come forward and report that exploitation, and this new legislation complements those changes.

We are also spending more than $7 million over four years to boost the number of labour inspectors and immigration officers dealing with the Canterbury rebuild.

Michel Woodhouse is Immigration Minister of New Zealand. The above is a statement that he issued on April 30, 2015.

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