Cull calls for end to exploitation

Berlinda Chin
Berlinda Chin
Dunedin's mayor has added his voice to the chorus of local politicians calling for an end to worker exploitation.

Speaking to the Otago Daily Times about the issue recently, Dave Cull said: ''It's a major focus of council to create jobs in this community, but not sweatshop jobs. Those employers aren't welcome, we don't want them and we don't need them.''

Mr Cull added his support to those espousing harsher penalties for employers who exploit vulnerable workers.

The ODT published a report earlier this month on migrants in the city who say they are paid as little as $4.37 an hour, often without holiday or sick pay and are too afraid to complain to authorities.

Dave Cull
Dave Cull
Immigration Minister Michael Woodhouse, of Dunedin, said, at the time, those who exploited vulnerable workers ''need to be held to account'' and Dunedin North MP Dr David Clark said migrant exploitation was a ''growing concern'' in New Zealand.

Mr Cull said current penalties were ''peanuts''.

''Exploitation of anyone, particularly visitors, is appalling,'' he said.

''I believe that if employers are repeatedly mistreating employees ... they should not be allowed to continue to be employers.''

Increased financial penalties and the ability to ban repeat offenders from being company directors would help curb the problem, he said.

Office of Ethnic Affairs director Berlinda Chin told the ODT during a visit to Dunedin earlier this month that territorial authorities could help tackle the issue in local communities.

If councils were to lead the drive to stop migrant exploitation it would have a ''much more meaningful impact'', she said.

Mr Cull said councils did not have the resources to actively target exploitative employers and it was ''closing the stable door after the horse had bolted''.

Settlement support services were also not placed to tackle the problem.

''A settlement support person might be able to identify the breadth of the problem, but I don't think that will solve the problem.''

However, harsher penalties and more labour inspectors would be a good first step, he said.

The Immigration Amendment Bill (No 2), which would allow 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, passed its first reading last November and the transport and industrial relations committee reported to Parliament on the Bill in May.

-timothy.brown@odt.co.nz

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