Worried migrant workers, migrant advocates and union representatives will meet tomorrow night to discuss a response to the Government's plan to slash migrant work permits.

"Migrant advocates have raised concerns that racist sentiments are being fostered and ask why migrant workers shouldn't have their rights protected. New Zealanders ask why they should be sacked when temporary visa holders keep their jobs," wrote orgainser Mike Treen, in an email invitation to the public meeting. "This raises questions on how unions should be approaching migrant workers when there may be conflicting claims for support from different groups of workers who are their members."

Meeting organiser Dennis Maga said migrant workers on temporary permits were "worried sick" about their futures, and wanted to know if the unions would protect their rights during the recession.

"The politicians are calling for migrant workers to be laid off first, and the immigration service has revoked visas from some workers who kept their jobs," said Mr Maga, who heads Migrante Aotearoa, a union for migrant workers.

"This not only goes against the Employment Relations Act, but also the Human Rights Act which says there must be no racial discrimination in the workplace."

Speakers at the meeting will include Laila Harre, former Alliance MP and national secretary of the National Distribution Union, John Minto from Unite Union, Mr Treen and Mr Maga.

The immigration department is investigating a case of 28 workers in New Plymouth who were made redundant last October, while Filipino welders kept their jobs and had their temporary permits renewed; and Hamilton Jets, a Christchurch company which laid off 28 Kiwis while retaining 24 migrant workers.

A Filipino migrant worker in the information technology industry, who gave up a job offer in Singapore to work here, said the Government was "hypocritical" in announcing plans not to renew temporary work permits.

"Government immigration websites continue to hardsell this country to skilled migrants, with no warnings of pitfalls, traps or risks of permits getting revoked," said the worker, who did not want to be named for fear that it could result in his work permit being revoked.

"It is on the promise of the work-to-residence visa - that we would be getting residency if we retained our jobs - that many of us sold everything with plans to start a new life here."

Immigration Minister Jonathan Coleman had said last month that he expected the Labour Department, which oversees immigration, to ensure that fewer migrants entered New Zealand on temporary permits during the recession. Mr Coleman said there would not be new temporary migrants coming in as no new permits would be issued, and temporary permit holders would not have their permits renewed.

New Zealand takes 45,000 permanent migrants each year, most of them in the skilled migrant category. Thousands more arrive on temporary permits to work in industries in which their skills are deemed by the Department of Labour to be in short supply.

A record 188,000 temporary work applications were approved in 2007-2008, an increase of 13 per cent from the year before.

PUBLIC MEETING
What: Migrant workers, the economic crisis and the unions.
When: Tomorrow, 7.30pm.
Where: Trades Hall, 147 Great North Road, Grey Lynn.
Speakers: Laila Harre (National Distribution Union), John Minto (Unite Union), Mike Treen (Global Peace and Justice) and Dennis Maga (Migrante Aotearoa).