Migrant exploitation bill toughens up law
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 commer- cial advantage,’’ Woodhouse says.
Lochan also says this is the right approach.
‘‘In the past the ones that suffered were the workers and very little was done to 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.’’