Thursday, February 03, 2011

Like something out of the 19th century

Over on Red Alert, Labour's Carmel Sepuloni has an appalling story of how some workers on the government's Pacific seasonal employment scheme are being treated. No safety equipment, packed in like sardines in substandard accommodation (12 people in a two bedroom flat with no proper cooking facilities), and company stored to within an inch of their lives, these people are being maltreated and exploited in a manner I would have expected to see in the worst parts of C19th Britain, not in modern New Zealand. Sadly, she does not name and shame the employer responsible. But you can bet they're making a packet out of screwing their workers like this.

This sort of exploitation of seasonal workers should not be tolerated. The RSE scheme was set up precisely to prevent it, by requiring employers to meet high standards for health and safety, pay, and worker welfare. Instead, we've ended up with a resumption of brutal Victorian employment practices. At the least, this employer should be having their recognition for the scheme pulled (as well as being prosecuted by OSH for their safety failures). But in the longer run, we clearly need better policing of the scheme to prevent this sort of abuse. And if the government can't or won't do what is necessary to prevent it, then the scheme should end. If these employers can't be trusted to treat their workers properly, then we should not be providing them with an easy source of new victims to exploit.