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Vulnerable workers in Government sights again

4 September 2013 MEDIA STATEMENT

Vulnerable workers in Government sights again

A move by the Government to scrap annual checking of employers with staff hired under the minimum wage exemption is a retrograde step which could lead to further worker exploitation, says Darien Fenton, Labour’s spokesperson on labour issues.

Around 1,000 workers with disabilities- some paid as little as $2.00 an hour - are affected.

“The Labour Government changed the law to ensure that workers with intellectual disabilities who were working were required to be paid at least the minimum wage, unless an employer could prove that they were incapable of performing full duties.

“Up until now Labour inspectors would reassess exemption certificates annually, ensuring pay rates reflected any changes in circumstances or in the ability of staff to carry out their work.

“Simon Bridges has now ‘reprioritised’ those reassessments and inspections will be undertaken every two years.

“A lot can change over 24 months, including the workers’ abilities to perform the work increasing, wages not being paid properly, and employment related entitlements such as paid leave being ignored.

“This move has only been made because of the pressure the Government is under to deal with the explosion in migrant worker abuse. At the heart of it is a lack of Labour inspectors.

“Rather than cutting back on support for some of our most vulnerable workers Mr Bridges would do better to increase the number of inspectors so they can actually do their jobs.”


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