More labour inspectors are required to solve New
Zealand's ''chronic'' exploitation of migrant workers, the New
Zealand Council of Trade Unions says.
Australia proportionately has more than three times as many
labour inspectors as New Zealand, CTU general counsel Jeff
Thirty-five labour inspectors are employed in New Zealand to
cover a workforce of almost 2.2 million, a ratio of one
inspector for every 62,717 workers.
Australia employed more than 600 fair work inspectors for a
workforce of 11,636,000, a ratio of one Fair Work Inspector
per 19,390 workers, he said.
''There is a chronic problem of migrant exploitation in New
Zealand,'' Mr Sissons said.
''The issue with the breaches of employment standards is we
have this constant trickle of human misery and suffering. We
don't have a giant catastrophe that focuses people's minds.''
Mr Sissons spoke to the Otago Daily Times about migrant
exploitation after a report in the newspaper 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.
Otago's workforce stood at more than 100,000, according to
the 2013 census, covered by two labour inspectors based in
Many Otago workers were employed in the farming, horticulture
and hospitality sectors in which worker exploitation was more
prevalent, Mr Sissons said.
''There's some recognition that the system in broken,'' he
''But there are still some elephants in the room.''
Employers had ''incentives'' to exploit workers as not only
were employers unlikely to be inspected, but if caught the
penalties for those breaching minimum employment standard
were ''so low'' that some took their chances, he said.
''In some cases, it's a rational economic decision for
employers to behave badly, which is really terrible.''
From January 2008 to March 2013, the average penalty handed
down by the Employment Relations Authority in cases brought
by labour inspectors was $2826.14.
The punishment for worker exploitation needed to be reviewed
and fines of up to $100,000 for corporations and $50,000 for
individuals and potential for imprisonment would provide
appropriate disincentive, he said.
The measures were similar to what was proposed by the
Immigration Amendment Bill (No 2), but he felt that the
Employment Relations Amendment Bill - which was also before
the House - could undermine the protections.
Mechanisms such as the minimum wage order, which allowed
employers to average salary work over a fortnight instead of
a week, and 90-day trial periods were already creating
''structures of vulnerability'', Mr Sissons said.
Earlier this week, Immigration Minister Michael Woodhouse, of
Dunedin, told the ODT this year's budget allowed for six more
labour inspectors and, if re-elected, National hoped to pass
the Immigration Amendment Bill (No 2) into law.
The Bill passed its first reading last November and the
transport and industrial relations committee reported to
Parliament on the Bill in May.