Exploitative employers need to be stamped out, Dunedin
Immigration Minister Michael Woodhouse said ''criminal
employers should not be tolerated and need to be held to
''By breaking the law, unscrupulous employers not only harm
their staff but they also gain an unfair advantage over their
law-abiding competitors,'' the Dunedin-based National list MP
Dunedin North MP Dr David Clark said migrant exploitation was
a ''growing concern'' which exposed shortcomings in New
The MPs comments came after the Otago Daily Times published a
report earlier this week on migrants who say they are paid as
little as $4.37 an hour, often without holiday or sick pay
and too afraid to complain to authorities.
Although the MPs agreed there was a problem, they differed on
Mr Woodhouse said he ''asked officials to try and quantify
the scale of the issue in New Zealand''.
''While I believe the prevalence of serious offending is low,
any exploitation of migrant workers is unacceptable,'' he
''I have been working with leaders of migrant communities to
encourage migrants to speak up and come forward if someone
they know is being exploited.
''I have also changed immigration policy to encourage victims
of exploitation to speak up without being disadvantaged with
regard to their visa status.''
Mr Woodhouse also introduced the Immigration Amendment Bill
(no 2), which passed its first reading last November, which
allows penalties of imprisonment for up to seven years, a
fine of up to $100,000 and deportation from New Zealand in
the most serious cases of migrant exploitation.
Dr Clark said those measures would not be enough if the
Labour Inspectorate was not strengthened.
''It's woefully inadequate at the moment,'' he said.
The number of inspectors needed to be increased and given
more extensive training, he said.
The cost of more inspectors, in Labour's proposed policy,
would be covered by the application fees for workers' visas,
Employers would also have to ensure New Zealanders could not
fill any roles and migrants should be paid a living wage, he
''It sends the message that when workers are coming in they
are coming in to do skilled jobs,'' he said.
New Zealand Council of Trade Unions general counsel Jeff
Sissons backs Labour's policy to increase the number of
inspectors from the current 35.
By comparison, he said Australia employed more than 600 Fair
Mr Woodhouse said this year's budget included funding for six
more labour inspectors and seven more immigration staff.