The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) has commenced a detailed policy and operational review to improve its understanding of temporary migrant worker exploitation and identify practical and lasting solutions. Immigration and Workplace Relations and Safety Minister Iain Lees-Galloway last week announced the Government’s plans to eradicate the exploitation of migrant workers.
The announcement follows a series of high-profile cases of exploitation of migrant workers, including the Burger King ban over its breach of the Minimum Wage Act 1983, and the Immigration New Zealand prosecution against a Pizza Hut franchise owner which resulted in a pay-out of $150,000 in victim reparation.
Mr Lees Galloway said migrant workers brought skills needed to grow the New Zealand economy, but many, especially those on temporary and student visas, were vulnerable to exploitation. “Migrant exploitation takes many forms, including workers not getting paid properly, working excessive hours or in unsafe conditions. Crucially, far too many migrant workers do not feel empowered to speak up or seek help when they are being subjected to unfair conditions,” he said.
“To help develop ways to stop this exploitation, I’ve directed MBIE to undertake in-depth research on temporary migrant worker exploitation in New Zealand. The Government will engage with representatives of migrants, businesses, workers, academics and international students to provide independent perspectives and to test ideas.
“This is a thorough review, and will take time. I expect to make decisions in 2019. In the meantime, MBIE will continue to take action against those who exploit migrants. Initiatives underway include the increase in the numbers of Labour Inspectors through Budget 2018 and recently-announced changes to post-study work rights that will help reduce the risk of international student exploitation.”
The review into the sector will include:
- Commissioning wide-ranging research on the nature of temporary migrant worker exploitation, and the gaps and opportunities to address this. This research will be conducted through a third party, Auckland UniServices, to provide an independent and confidential space to hear the experiences of migrant and international student groups, and to hear from unions and businesses.
- Establishing a consultation group representing migrants, business, union and international students. This group will provide perspectives and be used to test ideas as recommendations are developed.
The Cabinet Paper on the review states that the objectives are:
1. To learn from migrants, employers, unions and other relevant players, to understand the nature and extent of exploitation of temporary migrant workers (including international students);
2. To identify where the gaps and opportunities are to reduce temporary migrant worker exploitation;
3. To make recommendations on potential regulatory, policy or operational changes (including labour market protections) to mitigate vulnerability and reduce migrant worker exploitation.
Visit the MBIE’s Temporary Migrant Worker Exploitation Review website for more information.