Issue 364 March 1, 2017
Immigration Minister Michael Woodhouse has done well in introducing a tougher regime that provides for stringent punitive measures on employers who exploit migrant workers.
As reported in our Homelink section, a new set of measures that would come into effect on April 1, 2017, will show zero tolerance on people who breach labour laws and show scant respect to human laws of justice and fairness.
Mr Woodhouse said that access to the international labour market is a privilege, not a right and that employers abusing that privilege would face consequences.
As the Minister rightly emphasised, the new measures will apply to all employers intending to recruit labour market-tested migrant workers, including employers who are (a) supporting work visa applications and approvals in principle (b) seeking accredited employer status or supporting residence class visa applications based on employment and (c) employers who are part of the Recognised Seasonal Employer scheme.
From any point of view, there is justification for public outrage over owners of small enterprises and entrepreneurs who have been allegedly underpaying and overworking migrant workers at place of work.
It is sad to note that some owners of Indian companies have been exploiting students and migrant workers from India. We have reported in our past issues that some employers have been extracting about 70 hours of work from these disparate overseas workers, paying them just $265 per week. In public view and of course the law, both are wrong. Every worker in New Zealand is entitled to the prescribed minimum wage (currently $15.25 per hour) and work no more than 40 to 48 hours a week.
People of the Indian community, especially from India are angry, not only because their good image is tarnished by such unscrupulous elements, but also because it is inhuman to exploit labour. Many of them have said that we should name, shame and boycott them.
The new measures will usher in a series of bold steps to stem the growth of rogue employers, exploitation of migrant workers and the increasing threat of illegal immigrants orchestrated by human traffickers.
Potential immigrants who arrive here on visit visas or those entering the country on other types of status (refugees for instance) apparently look up the yellow pages of the phone book and choose a consultant at random and entrust the job of processing their applications. In other cases, those with permanent residence status are keen to bring their family members and seek the advice of such consultants.
The real pinch
That is when the trouble starts.
Well-established and reputed consultants not only offer professional and genuine advice but also account for a high success rate in terms of enabling applicants to achieve their objective of migrating to New Zealand.
Exploitation of migrant workers and international students is nothing new in countries, which 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.
We not only need good laws but also their effective enforcement.
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