What are we doing to stop migrant exploitation? You only need to read the shocking headlines and realise the problem’s widespread and getting worse.
Wage recycling is rife in New Zealand, where migrant workers are promised a pathway to residency and a decent hourly wage - So far so good? The trouble is these workers are made to pay back a huge chunk of their wages to employers, all for the privilege of living in New Zealand.
Last month Super Liquor cut ties with a Christchurch man who owned 15 bottle shops, after the Labour Inspectorate's investigation found he failed to pay employees the applicable minimum wage by paying the correct hourly rate and then forcing them to pay money back to him, among of list of other questionable practices.
Immigration lawyer Alastair McClymont says this is just the tip of the iceberg and doubts a current Government investigation into migrant exploitation will achieve much. He says the investigation’s only looking at how to enforce harsher penalties for law breakers, when it should be looking at root causes.
The Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment is currently investigating Temporary Migrant Worker Exploitation. It’s taking its time though. Alastair McClymont says the organisation will be in no hurry to release its findings, because its election year and migrant issues are too sensitive of a topic.
MBIE's Labour Inspectorate Acting National Manager Jeanie Borsboom says the organisation has spoken to many people involved in the migrant sector. But you could be forgiven for thinking there’s no urgency, as she couldn’t give me a time frame on when the investigation will be completed.
I’ve had dozens of migrant workers contact me on my Facebook page saying they’re being ripped off by their employers, but they’re terrified of speaking out in case they’re threatened and deported. Alastair McClymont says these workers have been sold the dream of having a pathway to residency, but that’s an illusion.
So what help is available to those being ripped off and made to work unreasonable hours? I spoke to Gerry Brownlee and Megan Woods, who told me a lot of their work revolves around helping migrants get out of bad situations and migrants shouldn’t be scared of talking to their local MPs.
Hopefully exploited workers can live with some comfort that their local MPs have their back, because right now, they could do with all the support they need.