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Lift wages, enforce rights for migrant workers

Media release: Council of Trade Unions

19 April 2017

Lift wages, enforce rights for migrant workers

Lifting wages and improving the quality of work for workers in industries with large number of temporary migrant workers need as much attention as modifications announced today, the CTU says.

The government today announced changes to immigration, largely focusing on the skilled migrant category, the proposed South Island pathway and the essential skills work visa.

Taken together, these changes amount to an acknowledgement by the Government that our current migration policies are out of balance and need to be reined in to better protect New Zealand workers and those looking for work, CTU President Richard Wagstaff said.

But he said unions representing workers in sectors like hospitality are also concerned that these changes do not address challenges for people coming in on student or working holiday visas.

“When some employers prefer immigration as a way to keep wages down– as is clear in parts of the economy – we are faced with two options. We can either alter immigration settings, or we can work up a plan to lift wages and the quality of work in New Zealand. These changes help with the former but unions want a stronger plan from government on the latter.”

“Yesterday’s proposed equal pay settlement shows the value of unions, business and government working out a plan across a whole industries to lift the pay and quality of work. We think there are lessons in this approach for lifting up other parts of the workforce also.”

“Many industries are now reliant on migrant workers, including agriculture, horticulture, construction, labour hire, hospitality and retail. Migrant workers need much stronger protections to ensure their rights at work. Many of these industries have no or low unionisation, low wages, poor health and safety and a high rate of non-compliance with basic employment law.”

“There are far too few labour inspectors to really uncover migrant worker exploitation – so the numbers of Inspectors need to be boosted. Immigration New Zealand also need to take a really hard look at the working practices in the dodgiest industries and revoke rights to employ migrants when it’s clear that employers do not meet minimum legal standards.”


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