When immigration means exploitation

Written By: - Date published: 7:03 am, June 15th, 2017 - 37 comments
Categories: capitalism, class war, human rights, im/migration, unemployment, workers' rights - Tags: , , , , , ,

Good coverage of Labour’s immigration policy from an anonymous editorial on Stuff:

Immigration cuts are not xenophobic, but economically necessary

Labour’s immigration policy is not racist or xenophobic. It is a careful and moderate policy designed to deal with several serious problems at once.

Net immigration is at unprecedented levels and is causing serious economic trouble. It is helping stoke the fires of house prices. It is helping clog the already-clogged roads of Auckland. It is putting a strain on schools, transport services, even on the decaying water pipes. Nobody disputes that these problems are real or that they will cost a fortune to fix.

Clearly too many unskilled foreign workers are being allowed into New Zealand, allowing the Government and employers to avoid the thorny problem of training New Zealanders to do this work. Bill English’s attempts to paint Kiwi workers as drugged-out and useless back-fired disastrously when the evidence showed that drugged-up workers are not a major problem.

There certainly are problems with unemployed people lacking skills, and this won’t be easily fixed. It raises serious issues about underprivilege and a hard-core of intergenerational unemployed. But this is a problem that must be faced and fixed. Hiring foreigners to stack shelves and serve in shops is daft.

Labour’s policy would allow a more regional approach to deciding skill shortages and needs and would also require foreign workers to stay in the particular region. It would also put greater pressure on employers to find local workers before reaching for the immigration solution. That is as it should be. Immigration has always been meant to run in tandem with a local labour market policy, not as a substitute for it. …

The exploitation of foreign students and workers needs more attention:

Exploited students ‘sleeping in cars’ – Immigration staff

Immigration officials say Indian students have been regularly threatening self-harm and sleeping in cars because they did not earn enough to buy food.

Emails from Immigration NZ staff in India, obtained by the Labour Party under the Official Information Act, expressed concern about an “exploitation/facilitation triangle” in which Indian education agents, NZ educational institutions and Kiwi employers were all making money from Indian students. …

Uncovered: Exploitation of migrant workers rife in NZ

Widespread migrant exploitation has been uncovered in New Zealand with a new report stating workers have been unpaid, denied toilet breaks and subjected to threats and abuse by Kiwi bosses.

Dozens of migrant workers who have fallen victim to exploitation and human trafficking in New Zealand have relayed disturbing accounts of abuse to University of Auckland researcher Dr Christina Stringer.

Workers claimed their passports have been confiscated, their movements have been restricted and they’ve been forced to work up to 18 hours a day and live in overcrowded, substandard accommodation.

Some reported being propositioned for sex by employers while others said New Zealand authorities had refused to listen to their pleas for help because they didn’t have the right documentation.

Two interviewees said they felt like they were “prey”, while another commented: “I feel like they own me because of visas.” Stringer interviewed more than 100 people during her research, the majority of whom were temporary migrants.

Her report marks the first independent evidence-based research of its kind in the country.

It highlights how migrant exploitation – an often secretive and under-reported issue – has been occurring for years across some of New Zealand’s biggest industries, including dairy, horticulture, hospitality and international education.

“The findings of this report, which highlight and uncover areas of significant concern, deserve urgent attention,” read the report, titled Worker Exploitation in New Zealand: A Troubling Landscape.

Read more: New Zealand Herald in-depth report on human trafficking

See also:
Farm owners fined $21k for under-paying migrant workers
Immigrant workers felt helpless during exploitation
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
And so on.

Those arguing for unrestricted immigration are – wittingly or unwittingly – fueling higher levels of exploitation in NZ. Meanwhile 90,000 young Kiwis have no job, no training to go to. We need better pathways in to work for these young people. And we need better support to protect workers’ (all workers’) rights.

37 comments on “When immigration means exploitation”

  1. Ethica 1

    This policy also doubles the refugee quota which is a start in that direction, and has not been mentioned in the commentary I’ve seen.

    • Daphna 1.1

      Thats right Labour has tried to dress up its immigration package by saying they’ll double the refugee quota. Next year the refugee quota goes up from a tiny 750 to 1000 people. So Labour is looking at taking 2000 refugees.

      How does New Zealand stack-up on the humanitarian front compared to other countries? Lebanon with a population of 5.8m – just a bit bigger than NZ’s 4.5m – is home to an estimated 1.15m refugees, the largest in the world in per capita terms. That’s 209 per 1000 people, where New Zealand has 0.3 per 1000 people. We compare poorly to Australia 1.5, Canada 4.19, Netherlands 4.8 and Sweden 14.6. In fact New Zealand’s intake per capita was the lowest in the Western world bar Japan.

  2. Adrian Thornton 2

    RSE (Recognised Seasonal Employer Scheme) workers ARE being used to suppress wages in NZ, that is just a fact.
    Here in the Hawkes Bay, picking apples used to be a pretty respectable and well paid job, and when I moved here about 20 years ago, many families lived a good life picking, pruning etc in the orchard industry, hard work, but good work.

    Cut to 2017, bin rates have barely moved over this time.
    A bin rate is the amount you are paid to pick a bin of apples, which is about 350kg of apples per bin.
    Bin rates vary, dependent on the variety, but average out at about $30.00 per bin
    This is about the same bin rate that was paid 15-20 years ago.

    OK so here is the break down of what an average picker can expect to make.

    An upper average picker will pick 4-5 bins per day, so I will use the top average picker as my example.
    @$30 per bin this is 150 per day, or about $18.75 per hour, which is $3.00 above minimum wages,
    So over one month that picker would in theory make $3000.
    However this doesn’t take into account rain days, so when I did these numbers it was April, and the average rain days per month in April is 10 days according to NIWA
    So you can potentially lose up to 10 days work in April, this year the people I know lost 6 days in April, so I will use this lower average number.
    Deduct $900 for the 6 days of lost work and your above average picker is now earning $2100 per month, which works out at over $2.50 less than minimum wage.
    The Hawkes Bay Orchard industry has been crowing long and hard about it’s bumper crops for many seasons now, but still pays 15-20 year old bin rates and minimum wages to most of the thousands of pack house workers employed…creating a low wage ghetto economy in the Hawkes bay, no spreading the wealth created by the workers around, no just more money for those at the top, enabled by a RSE scheme that Labour wants to expand into the building sector.

    Anna Lorck our local Labour candidate..
    “The rest of New Zealand could learn a lot from the success of Labour’s world-class Recognised Seasonal Employer Scheme in Hawke’s Bay.”
    “The great results we are achieving in the region through growing more long-term better paying jobs for locals, underpinned by the RSEs, should be heralded as a shining example for other industries to follow.”

    Yes Labour defending class war and not defending labour, and they wonder why they can’t break 30% in the polls.. they are a party of the middle and upper class and NOT workers that is why.
    Why would any worker vote Labour?

    Turn Labour Left!

    • RedLogix 2.1

      Same everywhere. My partner used to manage a reasonable sized retail business. She observes that shop manager pay (ie the senior at a location) hasn’t changed in 20 years, and gone radically backwards in real terms.

      • Draco T Bastard 2.1.1

        About 15 years ago I had a job as CSR. I started at $40,000 and also had a ~$8000 per year bonus. Same job now would be lucky to get $35,000.

        Now, if you think about it (which politicians and economists don’t as they believe the dogma instead) you’d realise that this is actually the correct thing to happen. As productivity increases the demand for the same work to be done decreases and so wages for that work also decrease.

        What should happen in such case is that the people looking for such work should go looking for other better paying work. This would keep the wages at the same level but that isn’t happening because we’re not developing our economy properly. Instead of doing more stuff, especially in R&D, we’re just doing more of the same stuff and often not even that resulting in higher unemployment and lowering wages across the board.

    • Philj 2.2

      Anna Locke must be the National candidate! Surely there is a terrible error in this Tory press release. Please make an immediate retraction or correction. Is this April 1? Seriously Lol.

    • Philj 2.3

      Thanks for the comment and link. The RSE workers don’t vote, so no loss there. So Labour is pushing RSE for construction worker shortages? Really. Wow. Good to know they support Nationals policies.

      • Adrian Thornton 2.3.1

        Unfortunately the RSE scheme is from Labour…

        “The RSE scheme was launched in April 2007 with a cap of 5,000 workers under the then Labour Government led by Helen Clark when unemployment was under 4%, but the cap was lifted to 8,000 in October 2008 when unemployment was rising and was lifted again in 2014 from 8,000 to 9,000, and then again from 9,000 to 9,500 in December last year when unemployment was over 5%. The workers come mostly from the Pacific Islands.”


      • Sigh 2.3.2

        The RSE is an aid scheme with the Pacific. Without it some island economies would collapse. To remove it without a substitute would be a humanitarian disaster.

        As for the scheme itself, get your facts right. They’re not used for construction or other jobs where NZers are likely to work. This scheme is for seasonal work (That’s what the S in RSE stands for), mostly in rural areas, that would not provide stable, long-term employment for New Zealanders.

        • Adrian Thornton

          I absolutely no problem with aid schemes that help Island communities, however when these schemes are cynically used to suppress wages in NZ, which they plainly are, then we should all have a serious problem with these schemes.

          There is a growing disaster looming in the Hawkes Bay, brought on by so many of the local population employed on minimum wages or less by the orchard industry, while their industry booms.

          BTW Kiwis do work in the orchard industry, and more would if the pay was fairer and reflected NZ living costs and not those of the RSE workers who come from countries where the minimum wage is something in the region of US $100p/w.

        • Draco T Bastard

          The RSE is an aid scheme with the Pacific.

          [citation needed]

          That said, I don’t see why we should be sacrificing NZers livelihoods so that the Pacific can do better. If their economies are so bad how about they develop them. And, yes, I’m fine with NZ helping them do that. Of course, that would mean higher competition for NZ and probably less exports.

    • Draco T Bastard 2.4

      RSE (Recognised Seasonal Employer Scheme) workers ARE being used to suppress wages in NZ, that is just a fact.

      Yep. Something that the employers wanted but the unions and workers didn’t as they knew who would lose out. The unions and workers were right.

      Yes Labour defending class war and not defending labour, and they wonder why they can’t break 30% in the polls.. they are a party of the middle and upper class and NOT workers that is why.


      Then again, Labour have always been a party for the capitalists. They put in a few policies to help out the workers but they’ve always done more for business.

    • Gabby 2.5

      I guess if the exploitees are non-voters, Labour’s not too bothered.

    • North 2.6

      Not apropos the effect of Tongan (and other Polynesian) fruit pickers on the labour market……but in snotty wee Kerikeri, the town of wicked racial and economic divide where I live, they’re basically treated with ignore and steered clear of. The racism screams. Which is why on principle I, a 60 plus palagi in a suit, always give a cheery (sometimes obviously disarming)…….”Hi !”

  3. red-blooded 3

    I find it ironic that some are quick to jump to the conclusion that restricting immigration in any way is racist. I see the allowing people to be enticed here for courses that do pretty much nothing to give them meaningful skills or qualifications while being scalped by agents and by the private “training” providers and being forced to work for crap pay in sub-standard conditions doing jobs on the bottom rung of the employment ladder as being based on the racist assumption that these people and their goals and dreams are not important, that they’re just part of a profit equation and as individuals they’re expendable.

  4. Stuart Munro 4

    An easy measure would be a skilled worker availability register. At present a prospective employer need only advertise for a month or so, and claim than any applicants were unsuitable as a prelude to obtaining access to foreign workers.

    If Immigration had a list showing a hundred people available for the category of work in the region they should decline the application automatically. This would make the process less unilateral.

  5. Bill 5

    Who’s been arguing for unrestricted immigration?

    Why doesn’t NZ Labour’s immigration policy state an intention to identify and shut down courses that are an exploitative sham? And why doesn’t NZ Labour’s immigration policy even so much as mention tackling the Employment Legislation that enables fairly widespread exploitation?

    NZ Labour’s policy discriminates against one cohort of immigrants claiming it’s necessary to alleviate stresses on infrastructure and services. But their policy doesn’t actually do that.

    And as I keep pointing out, it chimes with UKIP policy on immigration, while being a blue million miles away from UK Labour immigration policy – that’s the same UK Labour that just last week, everyone was holding up as some worthy example of what NZ Labour could or should be.

    But here we are a few days down the track. On a labour site – cheerleading a clearly discriminatory immigration policy and throwing up paper men in order to construct justifications for it.

    • Stuart Munro 5.1

      I would say the Gnats, with a degree of Labour complicity.

      But such is the arrogance of this government that rather than make the case in parliament as a lawful process demands they have merely subverted the rules until large numbers of applicants were available to be exploited by their fellow scoundrels.

      • Bill 5.1.1

        Sorry Stuart. There was a fair bit of late editing and I’m not sure which version of the comment (long or short) you’re responding to. My bad for coming back to a comment I’d just submitted and making major additions.

        • Stuart Munro

          No need to apologize – just my answer didn’t anticipate very well – no harm done, hope I haven’t deflected too much.

    • Draco T Bastard 5.2

      On a labour site – cheerleading a clearly discriminatory immigration policy and throwing up paper men in order to construct justifications for it.

      It’s not a ‘Labour site’ as you well know and I haven’t seen anything discriminatory in Labour’s policy. It’s not the one I’d use as I don’t think it goes far enough.

      [Don’t make stupid allegations Draco. I didn’t say “the standard” was a Labour site.] – Bill

      • Draco T Bastard 5.2.1

        [Don’t make stupid allegations Draco. I didn’t say “the standard” was a Labour site.] – Bill

        The implication was there in what you wrote. Your wording clearly implies this site otherwise it wouldn’t be here.

        But here we are a few days down the track. On a labour site – cheerleading a clearly discriminatory immigration policy and throwing up paper men in order to construct justifications for it.

        If you meant another site you probably should have named the other site.

        • Bill

          I meant this site Draco. Do you not have a brain engaged today?

          • McFlock

            To be fair, after half a dozen references to LabourcapitalL parties, the switch to referring to the labourlowercasel movement might have been more clearly indicated. Threw me a bit as well.

    • red-blooded 5.3

      “Who’s been arguing for unrestricted immigration?”


      “Why doesn’t NZ Labour’s immigration policy state an intention to identify and shut down courses that are an exploitative sham?”

      It does. “Labour will stop issuing student visas for courses below a bachelor’s degree which are not independently assessed by the TEC and NZQA to be of high quality.” http://www.labour.org.nz/immigration

      “And why doesn’t NZ Labour’s immigration policy even so much as mention tackling the Employment Legislation that enables fairly widespread exploitation?”

      Have a look at the comments about increasing apprenticeships, about requiring proof that meaningful efforts have been made to find local workers, offering rates of pay and working conditions that are at least of market value. Plus, an immigration policy has a specific focus. Check out the employment policy when its announced before you make assumptions.

      “NZ Labour’s policy discriminates against one cohort of immigrants claiming it’s necessary to alleviate stresses on infrastructure and services. But their policy doesn’t actually do that.”

      Who are the “one cohort”? Labour’s policy doesn’t only focus on international students (although they’ve been the focus of a lot of the commentary). It also looks at things like targeting immigration towards regions with particular needs and removing the points system that disadvantages older, highly-skilled immigrants.

      “And as I keep pointing out, it chimes with UKIP policy on immigration”

      Bullshit. Show me where UKIP extolls the virtues of being a multi-cultural society, or promises to double their refugee quota.

      “..while being a blue million miles away from UK Labour immigration policy” – presumably that the policy that says “Labour believes in fair rules and reasonable management of migration.” Well, so does NZ Labour. These suggestions are aimed at creating fairer rules and more reasonable management.

      “But here we are a few days down the track. On a labour site” – I thought TS was unaligned, in party terms.

      “– cheerleading a clearly discriminatory immigration policy and throwing up paper men in order to construct justifications for it.” The only “paper people” (I don’t use the word “men” unless there’s a reason to be gendered) I see are the ones you’re putting up, Bill. Who do you feel is being discriminated against? On what basis? Is it your belief that everything is hunky-dory and immigration is having no impact on resources like housing, health, education, roading etc? Is it having no impact on employment and employment conditions? Are low value “export education” courses and scalping of international students OK by you?

      Please note, it’s perfectly possible to discuss immigration and to suggest that NZ should manage our immigration settings more effectively without being racist or denying the positives that immigration can add to our society.

      • Bill 5.3.1

        Bullshit. Show me where UKIP extolls the virtues of being a multi-cultural society, or promises to double their refugee quota.

        Yup. Not a thing where the thrust and tone of NZ Labour’s immigration policy chimes with that of UKIP.

        Britons are among the most welcoming and tolerant people in the world…

        Immigration has placed huge pressure on public services and housing. It has affected the domestic labour market, where wages for manual and low paid jobs have stagnated.

        …halving gross immigration for a five-year period. This will still allow us to bring in the key skills we need, while giving a breathing space to public services under immense pressure.

        To give working class people in particular a chance to find employment, we will place a moratorium on unskilled and low-skilled immigration…

        We will also operate a seasonal worker scheme based on six month visas to support those sectors, such as agriculture, which need additional labour for short but predictable periods of time.

        Highly skilled workers with a job offer sponsored by companies paying them a minimum of £30,000 per annum will have priority.

        No mention of doubling refugee numbers, but then I was addressing the general thrust and tone of the policies, however…

        UKIP will comply fully with the 1951 UN Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, and honour our obligations to bona fide asylum seekers.

        UKIP will commission, equip and staff a Naval Ocean-Going Surgical Hospital (….) this will be an extremely useful way to deliver large-scale relief to our armed forces on active operational duties, to civilians and refugees in war zones, or to undertake humanitarian missions in peacetime.

        And then we could mention how Paul Nuttal and Grant Robertson used basically the same words to justify their parties policies…”It’s about policy, not immigrants”

        Go and look at UK Labour’s policy. Not a lot chimes there.

        They refuse to count international students in immigration numbers because they are not permanent residents or citizens and acknowledge they make a contribution to society. They are also allowed to work while studying. UK Labour undertakes to shut down sham courses and end, not just that avenue for exploitation of foreigners, but to tackle current Employment Law in conjunction with unions and others so that bastard employers are shut down too. And UK Labour is explicit about not using the result of economic mismanagement (knackered infrastructure) as a rationale for determining immigration policy.

        • Nope

          Interesting you didn’t know about Labour’s plan to double the refugee quota. Clearly you hadn’t even read the policy before calling Labour racists.

          Shame on you.

          • Bill

            Interesting that the difference between a refugee and an immigrant appears to elude you.

            Now. Provide the link and the quote to where I’ve called Labour racists over the head of this immigration policy. Thank you.

    • Sigh 5.4

      You ask “Why doesn’t NZ Labour’s immigration policy state an intention to identify and shut down courses that are an exploitative sham?”

      It does. That’s exactly what the policy is.

      You ask “And why doesn’t NZ Labour’s immigration policy even so much as mention tackling the Employment Legislation that enables fairly widespread exploitation?”

      If you’d watched the announcement (it was live streamed by news outlets) you’ll have seen that Little said Labour is announcing its employment relations policy later this month. You’ll have also seen that this policy talks about beefing up the labour inspectorate and stamping out migrant exploitation.

      I honestly can’t believe how much anti-Labour stuff is just plain made up by so-called leftists on this site.

      • Bill 5.4.1

        Yeah, nah.

        So now we’re to see exploitation of immigrants as somehow unconnected to Employment Law, and then think that it’s okay Employment Law didn’t get so much as a passing mention in the immigration policy because of that, and anyway, Employment Policy is later? Jesus wept.

        In relation to the assertion made in the last sentence of your comment – link to the comment where I’ve made something up in this discussion. Thank you.

    • Wainwright 5.5

      Hear hear Bill. Shocking to see this kind of distraction manoevre and it only proves what a dogwhistle the policy is. Gordon Campbell’s on the money here

      • Bill 5.5.1

        Thankyou for the link Wainwright.

        Campbell hits on some pretty revealing snippets and details there. I think I’m singing from the same song-sheet as him with regards the general overview, but just coming at it from a more comparative angle.

        I suspect this bullshit from Labour has pissed off more people than they’ll be happy to admit to. Least ways, insofar as I hate politicians peddling disgusting shit, I hope that’s the case.

  6. Draco T Bastard 6

    Some reported being propositioned for sex by employers while others said New Zealand authorities had refused to listen to their pleas for help because they didn’t have the right documentation.

    Not having the ‘right documentation’ would be prima facie evidence of a crime being committed wouldn’t it? And that such crime should therefore be investigated to its fullest?

    It shouldn’t be ‘Oh, you have the wrong documentation so we can’t do anything.’ As that would actually be enabling crime doing so would itself be a crime.

    I wonder how government departments got to the point of denying people justice because of ‘wrong documentation’.

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