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Re-emergence of sweatshops shows need for change

Re-emergence of sweatshops highlights need for change

Investigations into the latest alleged sweatshop in Auckland illustrate the urgent need for provisions included in the Employment Relations Bill to deter this sort of exploitation of workers, says Labour Minister Margaret Wilson.

Under provisions in the Bill, if employers or directors knowingly breach statutory requirements, such as paying wages in accordance with the Minimum Wages Act or ignoring the Holidays Act, they will be personally liable for what is owed.

The current investigation involves a clothing company facing allegations that it has underpaid 14 immigrant Thai workers more than $370,000. It is also alleged that the women have had to work six-day weeks, working from 8am to 10pm each day, and sometimes longer. The company was served Employment Tribunal papers yesterday during a visit by the police and officials from the Department of Labour and the Immigration Service.

An earlier example of worker exploitation concerned a number of Thai seamstresses in an Auckland factory who were found by the Employment Tribunal to be owed $30,000 in unpaid wages.

"Clearly this situation is untenable and cannot be allowed to take hold in New Zealand," says Ms Wilson. "The Bill attempts to deter such abusive employment practices."


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