Slavery2.0 - Migrant work in Aotearoa

"Kiribati people are their own failures, they weren't motivated. I couldn't get them to work," was the comment made to the ODT by the Marlborough contractor who crammed 22 people into a three bedroom apartment.
And the Department of Labour was reportedly investigating Garry Maxwell-Smith and his company Fore-Vintage Contracting, for treating migrant workers like so much garbage. To top it all off, 60 or so Kiribati workers have been sent home penniless after the promised work has run out.

With the Pacific Forum in Niue next week, alarm bells should be ringing as Australia and New Zealand tighten their grip over the Pacific labour markets and plan to set up more schemes to tap into a vast pool of Pacific labour, which through seasonal work schemes can be mobilised and then dumped back into the labour pool with the ease of turning on a tap. Just 100% pure minimum wage labour. 100% New Zealand.

The future of the Pacific seems to be looking grim with these relevations, which come hot on the heels of leaked details of Australia attempting to bully Pacific nations into a free trade agreement which will no doubt "lead to rising inequality, losses in government revenue, job losses, a reduction in the quality and supply of essential services and the closing off of policy space that governments use to stimulate development."

see also


Anonymous said...

There are 1600 Ni-Vanuatu workers in New Zealand who have come over using the Department of Labour's Recognised Seasonal Employment (RSE) scheme.

Otago Daily Times/ Pacnews
Thu, 31 Jul 2008

OTAGO, NEW ZEALAND ---- The Presbyterian Church is concerned many seasonal workers from Vanuatu are being exploited when they reach New Zealand, reports the Otago Daily Times.

There are 1600 Ni-Vanuatu workers in New Zealand who have come over using the Department of Labour's Recognised Seasonal Employment (RSE) scheme.

Since their arrival, churches around the country have received a number of complaints about living conditions and pay.

Churches in the Bay of Plenty, Marlborough and Central Otago have all reported abuses.

“We are hearing stories of workers who are cold and hungry,” church spokeswoman the Right Rev Pamela Tankersley said.

“Some arrive to find they will be crammed into houses sleeping many per room, each having an exorbitant amount deducted from their pay for rent and power. Worse some arrive to find no roof over their head.”

This prompted the Presbyterian Church of Vanuatu to contact its counterpart in New Zealand seeking help for its people.

The churches have so far been helping workers, feeding, clothing and even providing temporary housing.

“The assistance our churches give the Ni-Vanuatu workers is freely given and from the heart but we recognise that the Ni-Vanuatu workers should never have been put into a position of need and that the promised support from employers should have been provided.

“It is only fair and just that these problems are addressed before the next season of Ni-Vanuatu workers arrive,” Rev Tankersley said.

One church minister sought the help of a lawyer who had reported a Marlborough contractor to the Department of Labour. The employer was now being investigated for imposing on workers a petrol levy of $20 per person per week.

The RSE scheme targets the horticulture and viticulture industries, which often suffer from staff shortages. Registered employers are able to gain temporary entry for workers recruited overseas.

Mr MacLean said the RSE workers were all under the care of a pastoral care provider. They were living in a Christian camp, and the accommodation was of an acceptable standard.

A Department of Labour inspector has visited the workers and they had told him they were happy with their conditions.

“We are also in contact with the ni-Vanuatu workers in Te Puke and have had no complaints about the standards of accommodation or pastoral care,” Mr MacLean said.

Likewise in Central Otago, department staff have not be notified of any complaints regarding pastoral care in the region.

He said churches often played a significant role in welcoming RSE seasonal workers into the community and providing fellowship.

“However, this is not a substitute for employers' responsibilities to ensure the workers' pastoral care requirements are met. If church members do know of cases where employers are not meeting those obligations, they should contact the department about them and we will investigate them,” Mr MacLean said

Anonymous said...

NZ pushes Australia to accept migrant workers under FTA


New Zealand's Trade Minister Phil Goff has encouraged Australia to consider a migrant worker scheme, as a way of encouraging Pacific Island Nations to adopt a free trade agreement. Yesterday Mr Goff met with Australian Trade minister Simon Crean to discuss ways of speeding up the implementation of the "Pacific Agreement on Closer Economic Relations", or PACER. The agreement was signed in 2001, and is supposted to come into effect in 2011. But some of the smaller nations in the region are worried it will only benefit New Zealand and Australia.

Anonymous said...

World Bank urges seasonal labour plan for Pacific

A report by the World Bank says the lack of jobs in some Pacific countries is a ticking time bomb.

The World Bank is advocating greater job mobility for unskilled workers in the Pacific.

The World Bank's Pacific specialist, Chris Blakely, says by the year 2015, less than 10 per cent of job seekers in countries such as Vanuatu and the Solomon Islands will find paid work.

Mr Blakely says temporary labour programs for unskilled Pacific Islanders could help.

"The report finds that seasonal labour schemes targeting unskilled workers could offer new opportunities," he said.

"At the same time, it's got the potential to fill labour shortages in developed countries like Australia and New Zealand."

He says the wages workers send home and the skills they acquire can help Pacific families.

"One of the major threats to families if there's no income earner in their family, we know that people without jobs is one of the contributing factors to social unrest in some countries and in fact we've seen that already in the region," he said.

Mr Blakely says recent events in East Timor and the Solomon Islands show a strong Pacific is in the interest of the whole region.

Anonymous said...

REPORTER: Johnny Luu

New Zealand's Malborough wine region is a long way from Vanuatu where Edwin Kisel has left behind a wife and three young children but it's precisely because of them that he swapped tropical 20-degree weather for the South Island's stack winter.

EDWIN KISEL: We came here because of our children and we have to look for a job, to get money to support our family.

These men are employed pruning grapes under the Government's recognised seasonal employer scheme. For years the horticulture and viticulture industries have complained of labour shortages, so the RSE, which allows for up to 5,000 Pacific Island guest workers, is warmly welcomed.

EDWIN KISEL: And here we have..so this is our room. Three of us were sleeping here and here is one boy named Kibare, and here is Charlie and myself, Edwin, I am sleeping here on this bed, and we have only one draw here and only myself uses it. We have one heater, because it is very cold and we have to use heater

This is Edwin's home for four months. Edwin shares his apartment with four other men who each pay $100 a week. All up it's $500 rent for two tiny rooms in this sparsely furnished disused motel on the outskirts of town. His landlord is also his employer.

REPORTER: I would imagine that, you know, a lot of people would be questioning whether or not they're ripped off paying $500 for that accommodation.

JONO BUSHELL, VINEPOWER: Accommodation is at a premium and most of the backpackers, even in dorm situations, will charge up to $120.

REPORTER: But do a search on realestate.co.nz like I did today and people would see a house, for example, 4-bedroom house not too far from where the motel is, for $330.

JONO BUSHELL: Are they fully furnished at that rate? Is the power paid for, is the telephone paid for? What term is the lease? Are they prepared to take you for a 4-month period or 5-month period? I don't think you're really comparing apples with apples here.

New Zealand's unions support the RSE and they've negotiated hard on the details. Under the scheme, Edwin's employer must pay for half the airfare to get him here but the responsibilities can reach into other areas. Edwin's employer insists on no alcohol during their stay in wine country. Financial arrangements are also tightly managed.

JONO BUSHELL: Well we've put in a savings scheme with our workers and it's something that we insist upon before they actually come, if they're going to come and work for Vinepower this is the program that you will come in under. Because we've funded their travel and medical insurance and in a lot of case visas and clothing, before they even arrive they've got quite a substantial debt to us.

EDWIN KISEL: Our fare from Vanuatu to here Auckland, plane is $630.18. Our Visa is $203.80. Health and travel insurance $220.50. Interest $35, administration fee $51, and makes up to debt of $1,772.63.

Although RSE workers are guaranteed at least 30 hours a week pay at minimum wage, this industry operates on piece work so Edwin is paid for each vine he prunes. This week he's earned $490. After tax, his loan payment and rent, he's given a $100 allowance to spend on food and supplies. It's his third pay cheque and the first time he's made enough money to send home - $80.86.

EDWIN KISEL: I’m not sure but I think it is very low, because it is very hard when we come home and we feel our joints and our body feels weak.

Union representatives in the region have spoken out about what they see as the guest workers' lack of rights but Edwin's employer defends his management for being for their own long-term management.

JONO BUSHELL: We don't want them here spending all their money on alcohol and $300 pair of Nike shoes, which is what's been happening, so by limiting what they getting on a weekly basis to cover food, accommodation, spending money and having some money to send home, we're actually helping them to budget.