Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Why is the government ignoring this exploitation?

The Herald this morning reports on the shocking exploitation of migrant workers:

Widespread migrant exploitation has been uncovered in New Zealand with a new report stating workers have been unpaid, denied toilet breaks and subjected to threats and abuse by Kiwi bosses.

More than 100 migrant workers who have fallen victim to exploitation and human trafficking in New Zealand have relayed disturbing accounts of abuse to Auckland University researcher Dr Christina Stringer.

Workers claimed their passports have been confiscated, their movements have been restricted and they've been forced to work up to 18 hours a day and live in overcrowded, substandard accommodation.

Some reported being propositioned for sex by employers while others said New Zealand authorities had refused to listen to their pleas for help because they didn't have the right documentation.

Two interviewees said they felt like they were "prey," while another commented: "I feel like they own me because of visas."

This is another way in which migrant labour effectively subsidises bad employers: by providing a pool of victims for them to exploit. All of this is unquestionably illegal: we have a minimum wage, employment standards, anti-slavery and anti-human trafficking laws. But the government apparently refuses to enforce those laws by refusing to handle complaints from victims. Which suggests a policy from National of tolerating this sort of exploitation. Which is unsurprising, since their pet dairy industry seems to rely on it (few sane people being willing to work 18 days in a row in the middle of nowhere for less than minimum wage unless they're effectively kept prisoner by their employer).

This isn't acceptable, and the answer is for the government to actually enforce the law and start putting employers who exploit migrant labour in jail. Sadly, I don't think we'll see any such action under this government. If we want this to change, we need to vote for it.