JUSTICE for Filipino Dairy Workers in NZ
JUSTICE for Mary Jane Veloso, JUSTICE for Filipino Dairy Workers in NZ and All Victims of Illegal Recruiters
We applaud Indonesia’s moratorium on executions as we in the Filipino-Kiwi communities in New Zealand were among those who prayed and petitioned for the life of human trafficking victim Mary Jane Veloso. Mary Jane’s plight generated massive support from citizens around the globe. This young mother of two on the brink of execution on drug trafficking charges became the face of many other Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) on death row and those exploited by illegal recruiters and abusive employers. We hope that freedom and justice for Mary Jane will be the next good news.
In New Zealand, over 1000 Filipino migrant workers are now greatly distressed as they experience their lives hanging in the dairy farms. Last October, Immigration NZ arrested a dual Filipino/New Zealand national on fraud charges. This recruiter used false employer details and false documents on workers’ experience, asking huge fees from the applicants wanting to work in NZ. We hope Filipinos back home would be aware of this scam and be careful not to be victimised by recruiters who take advantage of their desperate need to find better jobs in NZ and elsewhere.
Like Mary Jane who was victimized by a heartless recruiter, the fate of hundreds of Filipino dairy workers victimized by illegal recruiters remain uncertain. With the extended long wait for work visa approval, many of the victims under scrutiny are unable to work and thus unable to send money to their families back in the Philippines. Their debts are growing on top of the thousands of dollars they had to pay their recruiters.
Recently 10 Filipinos were reportedly declined renewal of work visa. We hope this won’t be the fate of many others awaiting approval and that they will be fully protected by NZ employment laws, especially being victims of illegal recruiters.
Filipinos in the construction industry being recruited for the Christchurch rebuild must also be careful with employers who take advantage of migrant workers through contract substitution, underpayment and other unfair labour practices. The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) research found Filipino workers were most likely to be exploited as they feared losing their job or visa if they spoke out. Many paid between $8000 and $15,000 to a recruitment agent at home to secure a job in New Zealand. The MBIE research further noted that migrants working in construction are paid less than the minimum wage. The most common exploitative practice was the excessive amount of money charged by recruitment agencies in the Philippines and situations of contract substitution.
We seek justice for all exploited migrants in NZ and many more Mary Janes around the world. Migrante Partylist is hoping to win 3 seats in Congress to strengthen advocacy for scores of migrant workers in distress who hardly or belatedly receive government assistance as experienced by Mary Jane in over 5 long years of her case. “Proteksyon, hindi Koleksyon. Serbisyo, hindi Negosyo” is Migrante’s urgent cry in the face of the dreaded “tanim bala” modus operandi in the infamous Manila airport, on top of unjust opening of balikbayan boxes, lack of legal assistance, excessive taxation and multiple burdens suffered by OFWs.
More importantly, we shall continue to challenge the Philippine government to do better in its duty to ensure the best protection for millions be of underpaid and underemployed Filipinos: Create decent jobs, ensure decent pay and reduce the taxes at home in order to end forced migration. When migration becomes truly an option rather than a desperate move for many Filipinos who fell prey to heartless recruiters and abusive employers abroad, only then can we feel we are truly on “Daang Matuwid.”
Cristobal Espinosa Mely Feria
Coordinator, Migrante Dairy Farmers NZ Coordinator, Migrante Partylist