Reports that more than 1000 Filipinos working on New Zealand dairy farms may be caught up in a document scam further highlights the inadequacies of the Government’s Essential Skills work visa regulations, according to the Recruitment and Consulting Services Association, Australia and New Zealand (RCSA).
RCSA is the leading industry and professional body for the private employment services sector in New Zealand.
John Harland, Chair of the RCSA New Zealand Region Council, said that his organisation has been lobbying unsuccessfully the Government, and in particular Immigration Minister Michael Woodhouse, about the narrow focus of an accreditation scheme that is now required only of labour hire companies.
“We are very supportive of any moves to help and protect the rights of migrant workers. The Government is introducing a new Labour Hire Accreditation Scheme on January 1, 2016, and all it will do is police the law abiders and let the law breakers roam free.
“They have the chance now to crack down right across a number of industries to protect migrant workers, yet all they are doing is policing labour hire companies and not focusing on the poor practices of employers and other parties across all of the different strands that make up the migrant worker hire industry,” he said.
The Government’s new immigration policy was developed in response to migrant workers in the Christchurch rebuild being exploited by unethical employers.
“RCSA believes that this visa scam is a perfect example of the illegal and unethical practices that occur mainly outside the labour hire industry, perfectly illustrating how the new legislation’s focus on making labour hire companies become accredited misses the point.
“Under the new Essential Skills visa scheme an accredited company can bring a worker into the country and that worker can leave that company the day after they arrive and join a non-accredited or unregistered employer.
“These latter companies must also be brought under the new legislation’s umbrella. RCSA is aware of a number of cases in which workers have moved to unscrupulous employers and are later exploited through poor accommodation, non payment of statutory obligations and cutting corners on health and safety.
“Migrant workers are essential for the New Zealand economy, yet the Government seems content to pay lip-service to regulations and controls that impact on companies that are involved in this industry.
“The rules and regulations that are now required of the labour hire sector should be across all sectors,” John Harland said.