MBIE releases report on migrant workers

The Ministry of Business, Employment and Innovation (MBIE) has recently released a report (July 2015) on the exploitation of migrant workers involved in the Canterbury rebuild.

For the last few years there have been isolated media reports of exploitation - especially of Filipino workers. Christchurch immigration lawyer Mark Williams said the first 18 months after the 2011 earthquake was the worst time in terms of exploitation. "We did see quite a few cases of clear exploitation," he said.

This report, based on interviews with key informants and industry contacts, is the first major work attempting to quantify the extent of exploitative practices in Canterbury. The workers most likely to be exploited in the region's rebuild were those who did not speak English well, came from countries where employment standards were not high, and had financial commitments.

Christchurch Immigration lawyer, Mark Williams, stated that Filipinos were often naive and did not understand the protection that employment laws in this country offered. "Coming out to a country like New Zealand and being paid the wages they're being paid to work here is just like winning the lottery." He goes on to say that their willingness to work and accept working conditions opened them up to exploitation.
The research explains that small businesses that had tried to expand quickly in the wake of the earthquakes tended to be the ones which did not know how to manage employees.

MBIE Migrants Graph

MBIE said several initiatives have been - or will be - put in place to reduce the likelihood of workers being exploited. These include information guides for new migrant construction workers, strengthening the enforcement of employment standards and prosecuting those who break the law.

In the most recent MBIE Quarterly Canterbury Job Matching Report – March 2015, the Philippines was the largest source of immigration for the rebuild (with 175 arrivals) in the March 2015 quarter. Great Britain (122) and Ireland (70) also provided high visa numbers related to the rebuild.

Listen to this report being discussed on Radio New Zealand's Morning Report

View the report

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