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Nat U-turn on immigration must include protection from exploitation

Written By: - Date published: 7:02 am, July 24th, 2017 - 24 comments
Categories: accountability, class war, im/migration, national, workers' rights - Tags: , ,

As reported last night:

Government may back down on immigration changes

The Government seems likely to back down on changes to immigration law due to come into effect next month.

Several regional employers and the Canterbury Mayoral Forum have pleaded with the government to reconsider the changes, and they seem to have made some ground.

Sources have told Stuff the Government are now actively considering not implementing the new rules after negative feedback from the regions.

Prime Minister Bill English didn’t rule out making changes to the proposed new rules when asked on Sunday afternoon.  …

See also: Regional revolt prompts Government rethink on immigration. Update: Now confirmed: Government backdown on immigration changes.

The Nats must now enforce better protection for migrant workers. Headlines like these are far too easy to find:
Uncovered: Exploitation of migrant workers rife in NZ
New Zealand Herald in-depth report on human trafficking
Immigrant workers felt helpless during exploitation
Mainfreight banned from hiring migrant workers
Exploited students ‘sleeping in cars’ – Immigration staff
Farm owners fined $21k for under-paying migrant workers
Abuse of young and migrant workers uncovered
Report finds migrant worker exploitation
Filipino national fined $10,000 for exploiting migrant workers
Migrant workers underpaid $70,000-plus
Kiwifruit industry sting reveals workers ripped off
Authorities accuse beauty salons of breaching employees’ rights, as migrant workers complain of long hours and abuse

On and on and on it goes. (Meanwhile 90,000 young Kiwis have no job, no training to go to).

Giving in to employer pressure for high immigration without taking effective steps to protect migrant workers is just participating in the exploitation. I can’t say it any better than this excellent piece by Tom O’Connor (last year in the Waikato Times):

Shameful exploitation of migrant workers must end

How can the economy be booming when we have children going to school hungry, homeless people, beggars in the streets of some of our bigger cities and some old people living in poverty? The problem is so large that our over-worked and under-resourced social agencies have no possibility of dealing with it.

Now, it has been revealed, to our international shame, that the exploitation of migrant workers by their own countrymen living here, as well as New Zealanders, is also a major factor in creating the wealth of a select few.

Dr Christina Stringer, an associate professor with the Faculty of Business and Economics at the University of Auckland found, after a two-year study, widespread exploitation of migrant workers mostly, but not exclusively, in agricultural industries.

New Zealand is one of the few countries in the world with an almost open door to temporary migrant workers, clearly to keep wages down, and permanent residency for migrants with wealth. Some of these temporary migrant workers, from prostitutes to restaurant staff, have been held as virtual slaves under the threat of deportation if they complained to authorities.

Her work makes sad and shameful reading and while it is something we might expect of some Asian countries, it is totally alien to the generally accepted New Zealand tradition of treating all people with decency and respect.

The cases she found cannot be shrugged off as isolated instances by a few rogue operators. They reveal what appears to be a covert and shameful element of our economic prosperity which has all the elements which led to Brexit in Europe and Donald Trump in the United States.

While most employers treat and pay their staff as the law requires, Dr Stringer has revealed that there are enough employers acting illegally to create a very serious issue of human trafficking and exploitation as bad as anywhere in the world.

This must be addressed at the highest level and with some urgency. Anything less is a crime against humanity for which we should be held internationally accountable.

It will be the first real test of our new Prime Minister’s willingness and ability to be the leader of the nation for all its people, not just the wealthy few. Failure will be unforgivable.

24 comments on “Nat U-turn on immigration must include protection from exploitation ”

  1. Incognito 1

    Resistance is futile, you will be exploited.

    I reckon Bill English will cave in and soften the new rules but just enough to please National’s constituency and not too much to lose (more) votes to NZ1. In other words, it will be as vanilla as always.

  2. Keith 2

    Look at it like this; the previously announced “changes” to immigration were simply a hollow gesture to take the negative publicity and ramifications of their shitty policy off the front pages. Then you understand exactly why this faux back down from a policy that never really changed is even happening

    It’s like their various funding announcements that take money from elsewhere, that never ends up being spent because the hurdles they put up means it never was intended to be spent.

    Nationals rockstar economy can only function with cheap exploitable and might I add indentured migrant labour. There was no way they would ever change that!

    More National Party smoke and mirrors and entirely predictable!

  3. Cinny 3

    Supplying immigrant workers with accommodation should not mean locals are kicked out of rentals and told to find somewhere else to live.

    Supplying immigrant workers with accommodation should not mean jamming 20 workers into a house around the corner and charging them $120 each per week for housing, while a local family is forced to live in a tent.

    We’ve many RSE workers in our region, they are beautiful people, but they sure get exploited by some orchard owners.

    Government is falling apart if a few months out from the election they are backing down from policies they proudly announced a couple of months ago. It appears they don’t think things through, or are freaking out that they will lose the election and are desperately doing anything to prevent that happening.

    • Rae 3.1

      It is really the contractors who manage these seasonal workers who are the rip offs, orchard owners are complicit in that there really isn’t even plausible deniability in this, though. These contractors, you will often find, are actually migrants themselves. Migrants all over are being exploited, often by other migrants, often those migrants are from the same country as the people they are exploiting.
      On farms, many of the owners are corporations or investors who probably hardly ever step foot onto farms. In the past, people who worked on, particularly, dairy farms, did so with the aim of eventually owning their own farm by first working as an employee, moving on to share milking and then on the farm ownership. That path, by and large, is no longer there, why would you want to commit to the rubbish hours with no hope of the larger reward at the end of it? I am damned sure it would no longer attract me if I were a young person today. Fewer and fewer people are required for dry stock farming due to conversions to dairying, though that is by far, in my experiences from years ago, a far better lifestyle than dairying, although it was probably just an excuse for me to be on a horse.
      Back to people from the islands coming here to do seasonal work, I actually think this is a win-win (in need of improvement) as we, with the best will in the world, no longer have the people to draw on for this work. Back in my day, stay at home mums would take up a lot of this work for a bit of extra, those people are no longer available, they pretty much filled packing sheds back then. We could be offering this seasonal work as part of an aid package to the islands, offer training before they even leave home to come here, but make sure the organisation of these people is run properly once they are here, so they are not ripped off.

      • Cinny 3.1.1

        Immigrants exploiting immigrants, yes that sure is common, especially prevalent within the Indian caste system and they should be ashamed of themselves for such self importance.

        I like your ideas Rae re seasonal work as an aid package. I know a group of islanders here, who have organised a shipping container, they have been purchasing cheap 2nd hand furniture, beds etc, building materials, clothing etc and filling it up to go back to the islands for their families.

        Back in the day there were also ‘parenting’ hours at pack houses, a day shift during school hours. Shame more industries don’t do the same, 9 to 5 hours are now archaic and often unworkable for many with children.

        Heard of another pack house who had great difficulty getting workers locally, until they put on a bus and appropriate hours.
        They would pick parents up at the school just after nine and return them via bus back to the school in time to pick up their kids. It was a win/win for everyone involved.

        • Siobhan

          Then again…when was the last time bin rates went up?.
          Same rate for 25 years…yet picking standards are higher.
          Not to mention the carry on around notice given for no work in the rain, and the toing and froing on a row by row basis, between bin rates and basic pay rate as a way to minimise earnings….the list goes on….and no way to fight this when RSE workers are in no position to join a union or ask for better wages, which they would if they were actually forced to live in NZ year permanently.
          (ps..I am not blaming the RSE workers, they are being used to undermine NZ workers, and to top it off, they are being exploited too, I know some old hands will not be back next year as wages are higher in Australia)

          • Rae

            I just do not think there are the number of people available for this seasonal work now. Where, when my kids were young, a lot of us mums did not really have careers so we did this sort of work. I worked in kiwifruit orchards and did everything from thinning, to summer pruning, to picking, to packing, to quality control. People like me are just not that available any more, people need full time work, so I will stick to my idea of this work being part of an aid package, rather than just firing money at these places that need it. We do have to get better at it, though, where exploitation goes, but I do not think it is irretrievable.

            • savenz

              Yes there is plenty of people who can do this work. Had a relative who went down to do fruit picking, was told not only that there was no accomodation supplied as it was full of migrant workers and they were frightened for a young women to be living near them. So the only accomodation was a tent in a campground (she had to buy the tent and camping supplies). Then WINZ refused to give her the unemployment benefit back as she had somehow ‘left’ her job. Clearly anyone who encounters this carry on is not going to be doing seasonal work.

              Farms need to provide accomodation and they do not now as it’s easier just to have migrant men filling accommodation as they are stronger and work harder than locals and can’t speak much English to complain about conditions and question if they are earning the minimum wages. Not sure what happens when they get sick, NZ health system, or do they ship them back? Either way it’s not really a good look or beneficial to society long term and those that miss out on those jobs are left demoralised as yet again, they are rejected for jobs that 15 years ago, anyone could do.

      • In the past, people who worked on, particularly, dairy farms, did so with the aim of eventually owning their own farm by first working as an employee, moving on to share milking and then on the farm ownership. That path, by and large, is no longer there why would you want to commit to the rubbish hours with no hope of the larger reward at the end of it?

        Of course it’s no longer there – there’s no land left for such a system to expand into. This is the inevitable result of private ownership and limited resources.

        Back to people from the islands coming here to do seasonal work, I actually think this is a win-win (in need of improvement) as we, with the best will in the world, no longer have the people to draw on for this work.

        There’s about 100,000 people out of work and looking for it.

        The RSE scheme is there to keep people unemployed so as to keep wages down.

  4. Ad 4

    Good work Anthony.

    The quandary at the base of it is our horticultural and viticultural industries are highly dependent upon cheap labour.

    Can we still have our horticultural and viticultural industries without cheap and unregulated labour? I think it would be preferable to have all harvesting done by machine rather than see these growers put out of business.

    I wouldn’t wish such cheap and unregulated jobs on New Zealand citizens.

    • Heather Grimwood 4.1

      To Ad at 4: ” I wouldn’t wish such cheap and unregulated jobs on New Zealand citizens”.
      Ad, I wouldn’t wish such jobs on anyone. The squeals from employers are reminiscent of those from early Australian settlers wanting free convict labour….I.e. from same mindset.
      I met an immigrant couple recently, both with professional qualifications who had moved as quickly as possible from the conditions of a Southland dairy farm. They were too polite to say they’d experienced something akin to slavery, but these lovely gentle folk said enough to indicate it was much removed from what they’d expected.

    • The question is why? Why are they dependent upon cheap labour.

      Maximise profits.
      The industry has always had relatively low payments for workers hasn’t it?
      There is a gap and disconnect between what they want to pay and what is livable for workers. THAT is the key – the gap. And that is created because of profit AND the policies keeping wages low – another mechanism of capitalism.

      • Cinny 4.2.1

        Absolutely re maximise profits, made even easier if they own rental properties to house the workers, charging them per head instead of per property.

        Deductions are part of the exploit/profit

    • Siobhan 4.3

      The growers are not at risk of being put out of business.

      “Golden apple industry on its way to $1 billion target”

      “In the 2015 season, apple exports reached a record $630 million; this year Pipfruit NZ expects exports to reach 19.5 million cartons, with returns exceeding $700 million. If it’s achieved, that export tally will be more than double the $341 million worth of apple exports in 2012.”

      not to mention we have gone from 1500 growers to 300 or 400 today..so greater efficiencies in costs and overheads…an industry on steroids…but wages and conditions of employment..nah.


    Yet even more evidence that this administration is floundering around while our young are not being trained for the future, so we will reap what we sow with this useless government, if it wins a forth term come September.

    Best we vote them out of causing us any more damage.

    Most of the other parties have some form of more policies to upskill our young that would fix the problem without allowing yet more poor low skilled into the country.


    • Sara Matthews 5.1

      We really need to invest in tertiary education and apprenticeship schemes.

  6. Enough is Enough 6

    I am very glad that they have a done a U turn here, but as you rightly point out they must also ensure that the this is coupled with tougher laws to ensure there is no exploitation.

  7. Stuart Munro 7

    10 000 low wage migrant workers = 10 000 long term unemployed NZers + 2-3000 occupied houses. Work permits are not something a NZ government should be handing out like sweeties to their dodgy mates.

  8. savenz 8

    If you can’t afford to pay $49k for a migrant worker which is only $1000 a week less taxes, and a family in Auckland is not able to even live on without further welfare, maybe look to the 93,000 unemployed Kiwis and the 100,000 on benefits.

    Industry has got too fat and reliant on cheap labour, the no 8 wire mentality of Kiwis has gone into, a kinda fast food industry mentality, of cheap, fast, unhealthy, cos it feels good when you are time poor. Don’t worry the taxpayers will pick up the health bill on your behalf!

    Didn’t we get rid of farming subsidies, it’s cheaper to bring that old chestnut back from the 1970’s than legalised people trafficking on the tax payer dime with most of the profits going offshore.

  9. savenz 9

    That fast, cheap, unhealthy habits of low wage economy is why we have both low productivity, burgeoning government debt and a Ponzi scheme economy, that relies on cheap workers coming in to keep unprofitable and poorly run businesses going and to buy up houses, consumer items etc. The flip side is that it is direct completion with local workers for housing, transport, land, wages and food – keeps the prices up – win win if you are selling that, not so much if you are buying it.

  10. Bill 10

    So what specific changes to Employment Law are any given political parties putting forward that would end rampant exploitation of (usually) seasonal immigrant labour?

    And why is a ‘row back’ on skilled immigration criteria being criticised by reference to unskilled immigrant labour?

    From NZ Labour –

    We will investigate ways to ensure that the Pacific Access Quota and Samoan Quota which are currently underutilised are fully met. However, there will be greater enforcement to ensure workers are not exploited.

    What does “greater enforcement” in the above actually mean?

    All I can find in NZ Labour’s election stuff is the following under a 12 month heading

    Investigate measures that improve job security for people in precarious forms of employment (for example, labour hire, casual, seasonal, contracted or sub-contracted workers).

    Meanwhile, the Greens (in relation to temporary migrants) will

    Require employers to give temporary migrant workers at least the same pay and working conditions as local workers.

    But again. No mention of specific measures to ensure compliance.

    Maybe specific measures would result from the Green Party’s intention to –

    Support a complete review of the Employments Relations Act.

    Now that’s way overdue.

    • Craig H 10.1

      Fair points Bill. Labour’s policy of doubling the Labour Inspectorate would help significantly, but totally agree that more work can be done.

  11. Visubversa 11

    It is not just farm and produce workers who are being exploited. I regularly see applications for NZ residency from people with good qualifications who are being paid ratshit wages for professional jobs. A NZ trained Quantity Surveyor on $40,000pa, someone with a Pharmacy degree being paid 30cents above the minimum wage for relevant work, store managers on under $40,000, a chef on $36,000pa and a Head Chef on $48,800pa. No penal rates, no overtime pay, and minimum rights contracts.

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