Immigrant says he paid for NZ job, then was exploited

11:57 am on 26 October 2016

An Indian immigrant who said he paid thousands of dollars to secure jobs, only to be forced to work like a slave, is accusing labour inspectors of not properly investigating his claims.

Jagseer Singh Badesha claimed he had to pay $20,000 for one job and $1000 a month from his wages for another as a store manager which mounted up to $17,000.

no caption

Jagseer Singh Badesha says he paid $20,000 for a job but was only paid $6.40 per hour. Photo: 123RF

Mr Singh said an Indian immigration agent originally got him a student visa for New Zealand and after his one-year course, and a series of jobs, he accepted a store manager's job.

"After calculation I was getting only $6.40 per hour behind the scenes because they were getting back $1000 from me every month," he said.

"They were threatening me every day, they say we will kill you and we will destroy your life if you tell to anyone, that is why I was silent."

He now has stable employment and said he was worried about the effect on his visa of speaking out, but felt that there had been no justice in his case, except that he had since received holiday pay he was owed.

Mr Singh, 30, said the labour inspector did not appear to have questioned why his former employer was receiving regular payments from him, had not looked at cameras which would have proved the hours he worked, nor investigated his claims that New Zealanders were being paid $10 an hour by the same employer.

He said the first employer, who took $20,000 from him in payment for a job to support his work visa, had repaid him about half the money and he thought it was now too late to make a complaint about him.

Labour Inspectorate regional manager Stu Lumsden said the evidence Mr Singh presented was not sufficient to prove he worked all the hours he claimed and it was more appropriate for Mr Singh to pursue a personal grievance against his employer.

Although the witnesses he produced claimed that he worked "all the time", when pushed, upon questioning, they were unable to recall any specifics about the days and times that he worked.

Suppliers who gave references were not willing to give evidence to the authority.

"As a result of the investigation the Inspectorate did issue the employer with an Improvement Notice for breaching the Holidays Act, which they have since complied with.

"It is against New Zealand employment law to charge premiums for employment under the Wages Protection Act 1983 12A."

Two Indian women who RNZ has spoken to on condition of anonymity say the Labour Inspectorate also failed to investigate their claims.

But Mr Lumsden said exploitation of immigrants was a priority for the Inspectorate.

"Where we find premiums have been paid we will ensure they go back to the employee, and we will seek penalties against the employer."

Last week, senior immigration consultant Bill Milnes said there could be thousands of immigrants being abused at work but the government was unwilling to pay to root out modern-day slave-traders.

He said Immigration New Zealand was restricted to pursuing 'cheap and easy cases' which led to the victims being punished but not those who were exploiting them.

"I've had clients who have had to buy job offers - which we have found out in due course down the track, not at the time. So it's a huge situation, a huge problem."

Immigration New Zealand assistant general manager Peter Devoy said since 2014, INZ had established both the Serious Offences Unit to combat top tier immigration offending such as people trafficking and the Employment Investigation Unit to monitor, investigate and prosecute immigration offences by employers.

Mr Singh said employers, particularly from the Indian community itself, knew how desperate Indian students were to secure work visas so they could stay in New Zealand after studying, and he knew of six other people who had been similarly exploited.

Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs