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Govt needs to send clear message about migrant work abuse

Immigration Spokesperson

7 October 2012 MEDIA STATEMENT
Government needs to send clear message about migrant work abuse

The abuse of migrant workers risks becoming a scandal of similar magnitude to the exploitation of foreign fishing crew if the government fails to step up its enforcement and prosecution of employers who breach our labour and minimum wage laws, Labour's spokesperson for Labour Issues and Immigration, Darien Fenton, says.

"Revelations that 65 businesses are being investigated for breaches related to the employment of foreign students is just the latest chapter in a whole book of reported migrant worker abuse this year.

"The government has, until very recently, been prepared to sit back and wait for the complaints to come in, rather than taking a proactive approach of inspections and enforcement.

"Because there is no collating of reported minimum wage or other labour law breaches of workers here on work or student visas, there is no way of knowing how widespread the problem is.

"We do know however that, over the last three years, only six employers have been prosecuted by the Department of Labour for breaches of minimum wage laws - resulting in median fines of between $2,500 and $5,000.

“This won't do. In the next couple of years, we will be bringing in 15,000 migrants for the Christchurch rebuild. There has to be an assurance from the Government that this will not become another opportunity for bad employers to exploit migrant workers.

“It can demonstrate it is serious about clamping down on this sort of illegal behaviour by sending a clear message that employers abusing New Zealand labour laws will face the maximum penalties.

“The issue is not only about the standards we expect for all workers in New Zealand, but also our international reputation as a place to study and work in,” said Darien Fenton.

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