NZ expat construction workers exploited by bosses

Published:  13 Jan at 6 PM
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A New Zealand trade union is accusing construction site bosses at the Christchurch rebuild of exploiting expat workers.

First Union accuses construction site firms involved in the rebuilding of Christchurch of taking advantage of and exploiting skilled expat tradespeople. The union has revealed a catalogue of exploitation and insists that workers need protection form unscrupulous, crooked bosses.

The union is urging the Earthquake Recovery Commission to ban all firms found guilty of exploitation from further work in the city. Sub-contractors to major construction companies, it says, are the worst offenders and should be outlawed.

Disturbing claims by expat workers include unpaid weekend and overtime work, and expat employees receiving no wages for a full three months. First Union is calling for responsibility for expat workers’ rights to be immediately transferred from sub-contractors to the main contractors on each site.

Many sub-contractors, it seems, are taking advantage by closing down overnight and reopening within a week under a different name, having not paid their workers. The scandal broke just as an Immigration Amendment Bill aimed at dealing with the issue was introduced into parliament.

If the bill is passed, courts will be able to jail rogue contractors for a period of up to seven years, and impose fines totalling £50,000. New Zealand’s immigration minister has admitted expat workers in Christchurch are facing problems such as confiscated passports and pay rates set below the minimum rate.
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