More migrant workers, afraid of losing their jobs to Kiwis and not being able to renew work permits, are turning to unions for help.

"We have been receiving emails and phone calls from migrant workers who are truly worried because they think they can no longer renew their work permit," said Dennis Maga, head of Migrante Aotearoa, an organisation for migrant workers.

More than 100 migrant workers, unionists and migrant advocates met on Tuesday night amid fears the Government was poised not to renew temporary work permits to help save jobs during the recession.

Immigration Minister Jonathan Coleman yesterday moved to allay fears, saying there were no plans to change existing policy.

"There has been no change of policy under this Government regarding renewal of temporary work permits," said a spokeswoman for Dr Coleman.

"They are issued when there are no New Zealanders available, and that has always been the case. As unemployment rises, more Kiwis are available to fill jobs, therefore fewer temporary permits are issued or renewed - there is nothing new about that. What is new is that there are now more unemployed Kiwis available.

"Any foreign worker who is here on a temporary work permit has the right to work while that permit remains valid. There has been no suggestion by this Government that foreign workers should be sacked ahead of New Zealanders in situations where the foreign workers have valid, current permits."

At Tuesday's meeting, Laila Harre, of the National Distribution Union, said the policy had been "wrong for a very long time".

She said New Zealand saw migrant workers as an expendable workforce and "that has got to change".