Immigrant worker exploitation to be made a crime in NZ

The exploitation of legal temporary immigrants working in New Zealand will become a criminal matter rather than a civil one, the country’s Immigration Minister Michael Woodhouse announced today.

In recent weeks it has emerged that a number of legal immigrants working in Christchurch have been receiving wages well below the average working rate, while some have been forced to work weekends for free.

Minister Woodhouse says that while current legislation provides for an offence of exploiting illegal workers the same should be done for legal workers as well.

“I think that [the law] should be the same for those who are legally entitled to work in New Zealand. Those penalties are severe. The fines could be up to NZ$100,000 or seven years in jail,” he told Radio New Zealand’s Summer Report programme.

The Minister said that while legal worker exploitation is only a small problem for the country at present – mostly seen in the Canterbury region – the risk of it growing is significant.

The number of foreign workers being brought into Canterbury to aid the rebuild of Christchurch following a series of destructive earthquakes is expected to peak this year.

Between 1st July 2011 and 30th November last year, a total of 1,926 people were granted temporary visas specifically for work associated with the rebuild.

Article published 6th January 2014

NZ Immigration Minister Michael Woodhouse

NZ Immigration Minister Michael Woodhouse