Issue 403, November 15, 2018
We have carried two reports of exploitation of vulnerable workers at two different parts of the country, in each of which the Employment Relations Authority (ERA) has imposed fines and/or ordered compensation on charges of having made their workers overworked and underpaid.
In the first case, A Labour Inspectorate investigation found that Jagran Property Services Limited (Jagran), owned by Jagendra Prasad, failed to pay minimum wage and holiday pay, keep accurate records and charged an employee a premium to have a work visa.
The ERA ordered the company and its sole director to pay respectively $25,000 and $12,500 for exploiting six staff.
The underpayment was more than $17,300.
In the second case, the Employment Court ruled that three migrant employees working in remote New Zealand will receive $10,000 from an employer-couple who persistently breached their employment rights.
Migrant workers, especially temporary migrant workers, are vulnerable to exploitation by employers. Many have limited knowledge of their rights, sometimes find it difficult to communicate and feel their ability to speak up is constrained because they fear that their immigration status is at risk.
Exploitation of migrant workers and international students is nothing new in countries that depend on migration for its economic progress. Britain, America, Canada, Australia and New Zealand have laws that prescribe minimum wages, working and living conditions and rights of migrants on work permits.
Yet, they suffer in silence a variety of atrocities- working long hours, accepting less pay, often by cash, allowing their employers to evade tax and even immigration laws.
They suffer in silence to avoid loss of jobs, and worse, deportation.
A majority of migrant workers come to countries like New Zealand seeking a better life, just like many of us, our parents and grandparents did. They should be treated with compassion and respect.
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