19 Aug 2017

Report reveals farm conditions faced by Filipino workers

5:24 pm on 19 August 2017

Some Filipino dairy farm workers are not getting proper training and are ending up in dangerous situations on the job, a new report has found.

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Photo: 123rf.com

A new report, authored by former MP Sue Bradford and commissioned by the Union Network of Migrants, has highlighted concerns about health and safety, and employment standards, for Filipino migrants working in the dairy industry.

The report is based on interviews with 27 Filipino migrants working on dairy farms in both the North and South islands.

A small number of New Zealand workers were also interviewed, but their identities were kept anonymous in the report.

Dr Bradford said they got some "alarming" responses to questions about on-farm health and safety.

One Filipino worker in the South Island said they didn't get any health and safety training on their first farm.

"I wasn't even given a helmet when I was riding around on the motorbike," M said.

Another worker, R, said: "For two years I was expected to ride a motorbike with no lights or brakes, but this has been fixed now. We work safe here now."

C said they weren't given any protective gear for weed spraying.

"I just kept vomiting with all the chemicals I use."

But New Zealand workers also raised concerns and said they often worked 20-hour days and used heavy machinery without proper breaks or time off.

Dr Bradford said proper training and appropriate gear needed to be provided as a matter of course.

She said a standard employment agreement for migrant dairy workers should be developed, to deal with issues around wages and hours worked - especially related to seasonal demands.

Some workers complained that they weren't even earning the minimum wage and weren't getting their statutory entitlements.

One New Zealand worker commented that migrants could be in positions where they were paid at lower levels than what local workers were prepared to accept.

Dr Bradford said the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment needed to be more proactive in investigating and taking prosecutions where employment laws were being broken on farms.

Some Filipino workers also had difficulties with the attitudes of their employers and their management practices.

"Language is a problem, speaking fast, the accent, and unknown words. The boss gets tired of repeating. They should write it down and draw pictures instead of talking sometimes," one worker said.

Some workers were also uncomfortable with the amount of yelling and swearing on farms.

"I feel nervous and it's difficult to concentrate when I'm being sworn at... you wouldn't use those sorts of words on a Filipino farm," C said.

One worker suggested that employers should undergo training in sensitivity and cultural understanding, and others thought they should make an effort to learn more about Filipino people, culture and language.

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