Two British miners lured to the West Coast with the promise of jobs for life with Solid Energy are now facing redundancy and could be kicked out of New Zealand.
The men are only three months shy of gaining permanent residency, but are barred from taking jobs anywhere else, they said today.
"Even Margaret Thatcher showed more compassion," said Mark Pointon, who moved to Greymouth from Yorkshire with his colleague Jason Brown about 20 months ago.
The two men today appealed to Grey District Mayor Tony Kokshoorn for help after learning they will likely be made redundant in an official announcement tomorrow.
They said they tried to talk to Solid Energy and got the "run-around" from a woman in HR, who would only say, "Don't worry, everything will be sorted".
They had received no other information beyond generic emails.
"All we have heard is that they know about us," Mr Brown said.
The terms of their visas require them to work for Solid Energy on the West Coast at a salary of more than $55,000. This means they are unable to accept any other jobs and could be forced to leave the country. Both men have families to support.
Mr Kokshoorn is demanding accountability from Solid Energy, saying the company has been incompetent in handling redundancies.
"The management have let their workforce down."
He has taken the miners' case to the Prime Minister's office, the local MPs and Immigration New Zealand.
"This is the government employing these people. The buck stops with them."
Mr Pointon and Mr Brown have potential job offers with the Christchurch rebuild, with a pay range of $25 to $40 an hour meaning that at the lowest level even if they were allowed to accept the jobs, their salaries could start below the $55,000 minimum. If they are not granted more flexibility with their visas, they could be required to leave.
"It's maddening," Mr Pointon said.
"(Solid Energy) are supposed to be this high-flying company."
- The Greymouth Star