Unionists call for immigration reform and amnesty

Venkat Raman – 

A fast-growing union movement is lobbying workers and employers to force the government to reverse its recently announced immigration policy with a higher income threshold for certain categories.

‘Unite Union,’ which largely represents workers from the food industry supported two meetings last weekend (Saturday, May 13) in Auckland, one each at its office in Western Springs and the office of the Migrant Workers Association at Methodist Church in Papatoetoe.

‘Unfair Policy’

SkyCity Employees Association Co-President Julia Liu who organised the first meeting, said that changes made to the Skilled Migrant Category (SMC) would harm a large number of working people.

“The government has now increased the points required to get Permanent Residence under the skilled worker category and imposed a minimum income requirement of over $48,859 that many will not be able to meet. Those who do not meet the new requirements will have a maximum of three years before they are kicked out. This is unfair,” she said.

Unite Union National Director Mike Treen has taken the issue further by calling on ‘progressive-minded people’ to oppose the latest immigration rules.

“Tens of thousands of workers in this country have been brought here under false pretences. Many have been conned into paying tens of thousands of dollars towards courses that they hoped would open the door to jobs and the chance for permanent residence. The promises have proved to be nothing more than a fraud perpetrated by the government. These students and workers had the rules changed on them after they arrived. Many have studied and worked here for up to a decade,” he said.

Mr Treen said that as well as increasing the income threshold, the government proposes to continue to allow temporary work visas for lower-skilled and lower-paid occupations but for a maximum of three years.

They would have no right to bring family members, he said.

Amnesty in Canterbury

“In its plan, the government has made a proposal for what they have called an ‘Amnesty’ for a group of workers in the South Island as a one-off pathway to residency for around 4000 temporary migrant workers and their families. Many of these workers will be working on Dairy farms run by National Party stalwarts who have lobbied their MPs to keep these workers. The ‘Amnesty’ being allowed to these workers from the requirement to meet the new points or income thresholds for permanent residence should be extended to the whole country. The restrictions in the current amnesty proposal to bind workers to particular employers should also be removed. This is a form of bonded labour that needs to be got rid of as part of any genuine immigration reform,” Mr Treen said.

Parties that want to reduce the number of permanent and long-term net arrivals to New Zealand from the current 70,000 plus number can also support this humanitarian policy towards those already here, he said.

It is understood that about 250,000 temporary work visas are issued each year.

Photo:  File Photo of a United Union Protest


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