Unite union chief welcomes ‘fairness’ changes to fight migrant exploitation

Migrant Lives Matter
"Migrant lives matter" ... new reform package for New Zealand draws support. Image: Unite

Pacific Media Centre Newsdesk

Unite Union national director Mike Treen has welcomed the changes made by the New Zealand government in a $50 million reform package to combat migrant worker exploitation.

“It will make it easiest for individual workers to access the support they need to make complaints, get support and change employers if necessary,” Treen said today.

New Zealand had created a system that “creates exploitation again and again” over the years.

READ MORE: New visa will give more protection to migrant workers in NZ

That system had used the “desire of residency” to:

  • Bring students and workers to New Zealand and charge them tens of thousands of dollars in fees to subsidise private and public education;
  • Allow employers to tie the work visas they get to individual employers so it was im[possible to complain about treatment without risking their chance to get residency; and
  • Change the rules on who qualifies for permanent residence after they have come to New Zealand so that they will never qualify and all they can do is keep renewing their visas for as long as possible.

‘De facto New Zealanders’
“These are de facto New Zealanders who have made New Zealand their home for a decade or more. Many have children born here who know no other life,” Treen said.

“They also obviously have jobs that in any reasonable world would be considered “essential workers.

“They are working in health care, on our farms, in our schools. They continue to fill critical roles in our society.

“Employers want these workers to stay.

“Now many of these workers are classified as ‘ordinarily resident’ New Zealanders by the outgoing Minister of Immigration Iain lees-Galloway.”

They were the next category to be allowed back into New Zealand after New Zealand citizens who wanted to return were allowed back.

“In my view, these ‘ordinarily resident’ New Zealanders would have been allowed to become citizens in any fair immigration system and not exploited by the system in the way they have. They deserve to be treated the same as any other citizen,” Treen said.

“Every migrant worker who is currently an ‘ordinarily resident’ New Zealander should be fast-tracked to residency and taken off any visa that ties them to a particular employer.

“The ‘system’ of migrant exploitation and indentured servitude has to be abolished.

“New Zealand will not be able to bring in temporary workers or students in significant numbers for at least four or five years while this pandemic circles the globe.

“We have a chance to get rid of a system that depends on a permanent presence of hundreds of thousands of ‘temporary’ visa holders with no hope of transitioning to residency once and for all.

“This is a chance in a generation to do the right thing to those who have been so cruelly exploited and abused by the state who created this pool of labour in a desperate and vulnerable situation able to taken advantage of by unscrupulous employers.”

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