Changes to migrant worker protections welcome,
Better protection for migrant workers including those who speak out against abuse is greatly needed, but will be put at risk by parallel changes to the Employment Relations Act that would undermine other work rights, FIRST Union says.
Immigration Minister Michael Woodhouse told TVNZ’s Q+A programme this morning that the government will soon be introducing amendments to immigration law to increase sanctions against employers who break the law, and which will seek to offer better protection to migrants speaking out.
Dennis Maga, coordinator of UNEMIG, FIRST Union’s network for migrant workers said that Immigration New Zealand needs to be able to exercise greater compassion to migrant workers who are willing to expose the bad practices of their employers but who fear for their ability to remain in New Zealand.
“Migrant workers will need the protection of an open visa that allows them to find alternative work while their case is heard when their employment is shown to be exploitative,” he said.
Dennis Maga said that stronger penalties against bad employers were a good start, but more attention was also required at the point of accreditation.
“Employers getting Approval in Principle to recruit workers from overseas are not being effectively monitored to ensure they meet their obligations,” he said.
“Enforcement is also short of the mark, and a commitment to increase the number of labour inspectors and conduct random checks in areas where exploitation of migrants is likely to happen or has been reported by the community is needed,” he said.
FIRST Union General Secretary Robert Reid said proposed changes also before Parliament to the Employment Relations Act that would see greater exploitation of all workers including migrant workers.
“Proposed changes to the ERA will enable employers to employ migrant workers on inferior conditions to those enjoyed by existing workers on a Collective Agreement. The proposed changes will also remove the requirement for strict adherence to meal and rest breaks and will enable employers to walk away from collective bargaining, both of which will open the door to further exploitation of migrant workers.”
“These proposals together with the recent employment law change that allows workers to be sacked without good cause or redress in their first 90 days of employment will not give migrant workers the confident to speak out,“ said Robert Reid.