Students paid less than minimum wage

By Joseph Aldridge

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Foreign students desperate for work in the Bay of Plenty are being underpaid, a recently published study says.

And rogue contractors and financially struggling kiwifruit growers are to blame, a labour contractor said.

With no student-allowance payments and often minimal support from home, many foreign students rely on part-time work to pay their living costs while they study in New Zealand.

Desperate for work, and unable to find jobs in their areas of study, many students find employment in the Bay's horticultural sector.<inline type="recurring-inline" id="1003" align="outside" enforce-sites="no" />

A recently published report by researchers from AUT and Sydney universities looked specifically at the students' employment conditions, interviewing 93 foreign students living in the Bay of Plenty region between August 2010 and April 2011. All of the students interviewed were being paid less than the minimum wage, with some receiving just $8 an hour.

Most of the students interviewed were male Indians in their 20s.

The Bay of Plenty Times spoke to two such students on Monday. Neither wanted their names printed but both have worked on kiwifruit orchards.

"It's a hard work to do but it's simple to find a job to earn a little bit [of] money for surviving," one said.

"[Some] kiwifruit contractors are taking advantage of the students. They are giving less than the minimum wage, for example $10 per hour or $9 per hour, it depends on the contractor."

Hundreds of students were being underpaid but none wanted to risk their jobs by complaining, the pair said.

"The students feel angry but they can't do anything else because it's not their home town.

"... If they make an issue with the grower or contractor it will be bad impact on them."

Mat Johnston, BOP chairman of the NZ Kiwifruit Contractors, acknowledged some labour contractors were probably underpaying staff.

"There's no doubt that there are rogues out there, generally fly-by-nighters that are doing that, but that would be the same no matter who the staff are," he said.

New Zealand Kiwifruit Growers chief executive Mike Chapman disagreed with Mr Johnston, saying "the majority of growers stick to the rules".

Read more in Wednesday's Bay of Plenty Times

- BAY OF PLENTY TIMES

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