Thursday, November 01, 2012

Turning a blind eye to exploitation

Back in August, TVNZ exposed several Auckland businesses who were unlawfully paying their workers less than the minimum wage. The problem is widespread, and the businesses TVNZ named were just the tip of the iceberg. So what has the government done about it?


Businesses exposed for offering below the minimum wage are still operating and have not faced any consequences.


The Government promised a 'crackdown' on businesses exploiting migrants after the investigation.

However ONE News can reveal that the number of unannounced workplace checks has dropped, the promised education campaign hasn't been put in place and there have been no changes to labour inspector numbers or processes.

ONE News went back to China Hong Kong Restaurant, Glitter Takeaways and Smiley Mart, three Auckland businesses offering illegal wages. It found they are still open for business and the owners aren't facing any penalties.

"We can't crack down on something that's not there, that we haven't found," labour inspector Antoinette Baker told ONE News.

Reading further, the labour inspector claims they were helpless because "nothing's recorded". Oh, if only there was an obligation on employers to keep records of wages and hours so that their compliance with the law could be checked! If only labour inspectors had the power to demand those records, or to demand they be compiled if they are not kept! If only those powers could be enforced by the Employment Relations Authority!

This is not a problem with officials being helpless - it is a problem of them not giving a shit. And that is part of a wider problem of the government generally not giving a shit about worker's rights and turning a blind eye to exploitation.

This isn't good enough. These scumbag employers who pay less than the minimum wage need to be prosecuted and forced to pay what they owe. Anything less makes a mockery of the law and is a sign that it can be broken with impunity.