Silviculture is synonymous with low wages and worker exploitation
Yesterday, migrant exploitation was exposed in the forestry industry. The Labour Inspectorate has penalised Silviculture Solution Ltd (SSL), an associated company of CNI Forestry Management Ltd, 35,000 dollars for an ‘illegal system of calculating pay’. Instead of paying workers what they were legally entitled to, the company paid them for what they considered were ‘productive hours’. It was found that four migrant workers were being paid below the minimum wage. They were also not paid for the preparation of equipment and required safety briefings. The penalties mean SSL will also not be able to hire migrant workers for 18 months.
This follows a Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment Forestry Audit Review which found that Overall, 87% of employers were non-compliant with at least one employment standard. In line with the Labour Inspectorate’s focus area of employee exploitation and recognising serious concerns that employees within the Forestry (Silviculture) sector were particularly vulnerable, the Labour Inspectorate led several key investigations into labour practices within the sector.
FIRST Union General Secretary Dennis Maga says the exploitation of workers is prevalent in silviculture.
“Silviculture is synonymous with below standard employment practices. It is no wonder employers find it difficult to attract and retain employees to do this work. The ways in which these companies operate harm the lives of workers who’ve travelled far because they’re desperate to better their lives. To make their situation even worse is inhumane and they should be ashamed.”
Mr Maga says it’s not the first time he’s heard of workers being paid for ‘productive hours’.
“We know in construction is has been an issue; migrant workers are promised a certain amount per hour only to find that the job they are asked to do takes longer than expected and when they receive their pay check they find it’s been docked for the extra time it took them to complete the work. This is often labour intensive work and they work hard, it disgusts me that companies try to save money this way.”
He says it’s not the first time red flags have been raised with CNI Forestry Management Ltd.
“We are aware of issues within the organisation so are thankful for the penalty enforced by the labour inspectorate. We are also thankful for the Coalition Government’s increases to migrant pay, the proposed new visa framework and the signing onto the United Nation’s Migrant Compact which has just been announced. These will all help counter the exploitation of migrant workers in New Zealand.”
But he says there’s a long way to go.
“The industry and the companies operating in it are going to need to clean up their act and treat hard working people with decency. If this doesn’t happen, more people will suffer and the Government will also definitely not reach its billion trees target.”