Minister promises action on underpaid migrants

By Kate Shuttleworth

Kate Wilkinson. File photo / Ross Setford
Kate Wilkinson. File photo / Ross Setford

An urgent investigation has been called for into exploitation of migrants in New Zealand after it was revealed a large number are being paid hourly rates well below the minimum wage.

Labour Minister Kate Wilkinson has said she will investigate claims that migrant workers are being exploited and underpaid by small-business owners.

According to AUT business school researcher Danae Anderson, the underpayment of migrant workers is widespread.

She said Chinese and Indian business owners were hiring other Chinese and Indian workers and paying them below the minimum wage - so the problem existed within communities.

This year, eight former workers at a central Auckland liquor and convenience store lodged a complaint about working conditions and pay rates as low as $3 and $4 an hour.

The Departments of Labour and Immigration looked into the allegations by the Indian men, who claimed they were poorly treated by Jordanian Yousef Bader at the Sky Liquor, Symonds Liquor and Civic City Convenience Stores.

Sandeep Bhardwaj, 23, said he was employed for 10 months at Civic City, working nine-hour shifts seven days a week, and was paid $300 a week.

One News has revealed that a series of Chinese food outlets are paying staff $8 an hour.

The Labour Party's spokeswoman for labour and immigration, Darien Fenton, said an urgent investigation was needed.

"When there was exploitation and under-payment of minimum wage for foreign fishing crew the Government conducted a ministerial inquiry because of the stain on our international reputation.

"This kind of treatment of workers ... is an indictment on our reputation as a country that has signed up to minimum rights for all workers."


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