Mi­grant ex­ploita­tion bill protects work­ers’ rights

Auckland City Harbour News - - NEWS - By KA­RINA ABADIA

The pass­ing of a bill de­signed to bet­ter pro­tect the rights of mi­grant work­ers has the sup­port of many in the eth­nic com­mu­nity.

Auck­land Re­gional Eth­nic Coun­cil pres­i­dent Ce­cil Ram Lochan says worker ex­ploita­tion has been a con­cern for some time.

‘‘I have heard of em­ploy­ees hav­ing their pass­ports taken by their em­ploy­ers.

‘‘Some restau­rant work­ers, I un­der­stand, sleep in the kitchen and the money they are paid is well be­low min­i­mum wage,’’ the Mt Roskill res­i­dent says.

The Im­mi­gra­tion Amend­ment Bill (No 2), which passed its fi­nal read­ing in par­lia­ment on April 30, aims to pun­ish em­ploy­ers who take ad­van­tage of mi­grant work­ers.

Min­is­ter of Im­mi­gra­tion Michael Wood­house says he is con­fi­dent it will make a big dif­fer­ence.

Un­der the new law, em­ploy­ers who ex­ploit tem­po­rary work­ers will face a jail sen­tence of up to seven years, re­ceive a fine of up to $100,000, or both.

It is now an of­fence for em­ploy­ers to ex­ploit legal tem­po­rary or un­law­ful work­ers.

This car­ries a jail sen­tence of up to five years, a fine of up to $100,000, or both.

Em­ploy­ers who hold res­i­dence visas could also be de­ported if the of­fence is com­mit­ted within 10 years of them gain­ing res­i­dence.

‘‘The tough penal­ties re­flect the se­ri­ous­ness of such of­fences and re­in­forces that this Gov­ern­ment does not tol­er­ate em­ploy­ers who ex­ploit mi­grant labour for their own com­mer­cial ad­van­tage,’’ Wood­house says.

Lochan also says this right ap­proach.

‘‘In the past the ones that suf­fered were the work­ers and very lit­tle was done to the

is the em­ploy­ers. The Gov­ern­ment is tak­ing good ac­tion and we are very pleased.’’

Dr Mary Daw­son, who is the chief ex­ec­u­tive of Auck­land Re­gional Mi­grant Ser­vices, is sup­port­ive of parts of the bill.

But its weak­ness is it doesn’t pro­vide ad­e­quate visa pro­tec­tion for mi­grant work­ers who blow the whis­tle on an ex­ploita­tive em­ployer, she says.

‘‘Pow­ers of search and sur­veil­lance, in­clud­ing of pri­vate premises with no sub­se­quent pri­vacy law pro­tec­tion, have been given to im­mi­gra­tion of­fi­cers rather than to Depart­ment of Labour in­spec­tors.

‘‘This raises the strong like­li­hood that vul­ner­a­ble mi­grant work­ers will be even less will­ing or con­fi­dent to re­port their ex­pe­ri­ences of ex­ploita­tion by their em­ploy­ers.

‘‘This hu­man rights is­sue re­quires close on­go­ing at­ten­tion and ad­e­quate re­sourc­ing to en­sure the pro­tec­tion of all work­ers on our shores or our seas.’’

Lochan says whether checks are car­ried out by Depart­ment of Labour or Im­mi­gra­tion rep­re­sen­ta­tives is an is­sue for politi­cians to de­cide.

‘‘As long as the in­ter­ests of the peo­ple are pro­tected, I don’t care who looks af­ter it.

‘‘But there should be bet­ter com­mu­ni­ca­tion be­tween the de­part­ments, too much goes on in iso­la­tion.’’

Auck­land Re­gional Eth­nic Coun­cil pres­i­dent Ce­cil Ram Lochan sup­ports a new bill de­signed to pro­tect mi­grant work­ers.

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