From the beginning of the COVID-19 lockdown period in New Zealand, the Government has supported their migrant workforce and this continues to be the case.
Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters, Minister for Workplace Relations Andrew Little, and Immigration Minister Kris Faafoi released a joint statement announcing that temporary migrant workers will be better protected by changes designed to prevent exploitation and improve workplace law enforcement.
These changes have come about as a result of migrant workers on temporary visas being in a particularly vulnerable position as they are unable to leave New Zealand due to travel restrictions and reliant on their sponsor employer to remain in New Zealand and in work.
“Exploited migrants whose visas are tied to exploitative employers will be able to be granted another temporary visa which enables them to find alternative employment.
“We are also investing in additional labour inspectors and immigration investigators to ensure that robust action is taken against exploitative employers and to develop an information and education action plan so migrant workers better understand their rights and how to report exploitation,” Kris Faafoi said.
The Government’s aim is to ensure migrant workers are better informed of their rights and responsibilities when working in New Zealand as well as offering help if they find themselves in an exploitative situation.
The key changes which will be implemented over the next few years include:
- Creating a new visa that will support migrants to leave exploitative situations without negatively affecting their immigration status.
- Setting up a new dedicated free phone number, online reporting and better triaging to make it easier to report migrant worker exploitation.
- Higher standards will be required from franchises, labour hire companies and similar businesses where migrant exploitation often occurs.
- Disqualifying people convicted of migrant exploitation and people trafficking from managing or directing a company.
- Preventing exploitative employers from accessing migrant labour in the future by expanding the existing employer stand down list.
- Establishing new immigration and employment infringement offences targeting non-compliant employer behaviour.
- Notifying impacted migrant workers that their employer has been stood down.
Government is now drafting a bill to enact legislative reforms.