28 Feb 2014

Filipino rebuild worker claims ripoff

9:35 am on 28 February 2014

A Filipino who has come to Christchurch to work on the rebuild says he had to pay an illegal placement fee to get the work.

He says he paid $10,000 to a Filipino recruitment firm, Sacred Heart International, and now has little money left for his family in the Philippines, for whom he is the sole breadwinner.

The man, who doesn't want to be named for fear of losing his job, says it is illegal in his country to charge someone more than their monthly wage as a placement fee, and he earns $2400 a month.

Radio New Zealand News has seen the receipt for the fee, but Sacred Heart has not responded to requests for comment.

The man says he has had to get a loan of $10,000 and is paying it off monthly. He also says that after a few months in his job as a plasterer his pay was cut from $18 an hour to $16.50.

Dennis Maga, who works for the immigrant branch of the First union, says he knows of other cases of exploitation. He says he recently spent time in Christchurch teaching immigrant workers their employment rights and has at least 30 cases that need following up.

Immigration Minister Michael Woodhouse says the Government cannot do much about overseas recruiters' fees.

"We really have little power or ability to control the transaction. But we are looking at what options are available to ensure all workers are able to get here without those sorts of punitive fees."

About 1000 Filipinos have been granted work visas since July 2011 - nearly half of all the foreign workers working on the rebuild.