Chinese construction workers caught between immigration and former employer after failed mediation

10:41 pm on 6 May 2019

Mediation has failed between a group of Chinese workers and their immigration agent, as well as their employer.

A group of chinese workers who came to New Zealand after being promised work by Peter Li and NPL

The group of chinese workers who came to New Zealand after being promised work by Peter Li and NPL. Photo: RNZ / Claire Eastham-Farrelly

About 50 men were brought to New Zealand last year, with promises of well-paid construction jobs by their agent, Peter Li.

However, they were left without stable work after paying tens of thousands of dollars for the job opportunity. At one point, they were left without accommodation which they expected to be provided by their employer, National Personnel.

The group's advocate, May Moncur, said the parties failed to reach an agreement and that the case would be further investigated by the Employment Relations Authority.

Many of the workers applied to Immigration New Zealand for new work visas but none had yet got one.

"A lot of them are under tremendous pressure because they don't know whether they could continue working after the expiration of their work visas," Ms Moncur said.

A manager at INZ, Michael Carley, said the workers weren't qualified for a new visa.

"They were all required to meet the immigration requirements for an Essential Skills Work visa which includes providing evidence of their previous work experience," he said.

"To date, none of the applicants have been granted another work visa as none of them have yet been able to provide evidence which meets the requirements."

Mike Treen from Unite Union said what happened to the workers was appalling.

"You can't punish workers. These are barely minimum wage workers. They are getting 20 bucks an hour in the building industry in New Zealand, and they've come here and spent tens of thousand of dollars."

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