21 May 2014

Move to protect migrant workers

5:14 pm on 21 May 2014

The number of labour inspectorates and immigration officers in Christchurch rebuild is being boosted in a move to stamp out the exploitation of migrant workers, the Government says.

170414. Photo Diego Opatowski / RNZ. Christchurch. Buildtech sign

The rebuild has lowered unemployment to well below the national average. Photo: RNZ / Diego Opatowski

During the next four years, $7 million will be used to pay extra officers, including three compliance officers and two investigators.

Labour Minister Simon Bridges said the jobs would result in an extra 20 investigations of serious or

high-profile cases over an initial 18-month period.

"Ten inspectors there on the ground in Canterbury, making sure that employment standards are adhered to, that there are more investigations and, in the worst cases ... more cases taken to court."

An employment standards audit programme for businesses working within the rebuild, such as construction and labour hire firms, would also be rolled out, Mr Bridges said.

Migrant exploitation in the rebuild was a growing problem but migrants had the same employment rights and protections as all other workers in New Zealand, he said.

Canterbury Business Association chief executive Taz Mukorimbindo said Filipino workers, especially, were exploited.

"It's often a profiteering opportunity for people based on exploiting immigrants' lack of knowledge about the true opportunities or the challenges they are going to face, and so there can be a lot of misrepresentation and a lot of people making money out of that process," Mr Mukorimbindo said.

The move came at a good time because the high number of people needed for the rebuild had not yet arrived, he said.