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"Stop interfering in NZ affairs”, Union tells Ambassador

Media release: FIRST Union
20 Febuary, 2014

Stop interfering in New Zealand affairs”, Union tells Philippine Ambassador

A union representing many migrant workers in New Zealand has accused the Philippine Ambassador of interfering in the internal affairs of New Zealand following a speech that she made to Filipino migrant workers in Christchurch last Sunday.

The Ambassador, Virginia H. Benavidez, was addressing a meeting of the Canterbury Philippine Assistance Group (CPAG) and advised those Filipino migrant workers present not to approach New Zealand unions, “especially those who post stories in the NZ Herald” if they are having employment problems in New Zealand,” said FIRST Union General Secretary Robert Reid.

“FIRST Union has been actively supporting migrant workers over the last five years and has formed a Union Network of Migrants (UNEMIG) to lead this activity,” Robert Reid said.

“We have now have Filipino, Chinese, Indian and Sri Lankan union organisers working for the union as well as Pasifika organisers that we have had for many years.

“FIRST Union and UNEMIG have come to the aid of grossly exploited migrant workers in this country, including domestic workers virtually imprisoned in their employer’s homes and migrant workers caught up in immigration scams.  A number of these cases have been reported on by the New Zealand Herald and other media, “ Robert Reid said.

“UNEMIG has a growing profile and its work has been recognised by the New Zealand Immigration Service and the Human Rights Commission.

“FIRST Union and UNEMIG are now responding to a growing number of cases of migrant worker exploitation in Christchurch associated with the Christchurch rebuild.  A UNEMIG organiser was in Christchurch a day before the Ambassador setting up support mechanisms for migrant workers, said Robert Reid.

“We find it outrageous that the Philippines Ambassador should try and undermine our work and advise Filipino migrants not to join a union, which is their absolute right.

“The Philippines has one of the worst records of Worker Rights violations in Asia. We do not want these anti-union attitudes perpetuated by its Ambassador to New Zealand.

We urge the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to summons the Philippine Ambassador, acquaint her with NZ Employment law and the right of workers to freedom of association and advise her to not interfere in the internal affairs of New Zealand, Robert Reid said.


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