Interesting article on the dark side of NZ farming employment law. Good reporting from Radio NZ again, Read the full Ian Telfer article on RNZ site. With more and more stories like this coming out its highly likely a crackdown is coming. Industry group Dairy NZ says it is working with the Labour Inspectorate to improve labour practices, but rejects the suggestion that worker exploitation is rife. If you are worried about your working conditions get in touch with the Queen City Law employment team. Read more articles by Queen City Law on employment law in NZ
From the article by Ian Telfer for Radio NZ
The number of migrant workers complaining of illegal treatment in New Zealand workplaces has more than doubled in the past year.
Figures released to Radio New Zealand show the number of complaints to the Government’s Labour Inspectorate by foreign workers has has jumped to 40 percent, though they only account for 10 percent of all workers. The Labour Inspectorate is targeting sectors where complaints occur, including the dairy industry.
Last year, the total number of complaints to the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment’s Labour Inspectorate fell by 11 percent (from 2331 in 2012-13 to 2070 in 2013-14). But the number made by foreign workers in the same period more than doubled from 377 to 828.
The inspectorate’s general manager, George Mason, said the rise is probably a combination of poorer treatment and of more reporting by workers now it has been made safer for them to do so.
For the past 12 months, the inspectorate has made the employment of migrants and in the dairy sector priority areas.
Mr Mason said the inspectorate has begun targeting the sectors where the complaints are clustered – in horticulture, viticulture and construction, and especially dairy.
“What’s called salary averaging where workers are paid a salary and work whatever hours are required meant we were coming across case where workers were being short-changed in terms of their minimum wage requirements,” he said.
Migrants on temporary visas comprise about 10 percent of the national dairy workforce and many South Island farms are now reliant on them for milk production.
They are mainly from the Philippines, but also South America and southern Africa.
A number of migrant workers spoken to by Radio New Zealand say their salaries are much better than they could receive at home, but they work periods of at least 12 hour days with short breaks for months on end.
Abdi Korir, a Kenyan living in Balclutha, started in dairy seven years ago, but has left it for the meat industry because of a farm experience in which he says he was treated harshly. He says he was cheated of part of his salary by an employer who wanted his wife to work for free. Mr Korir said the New Zealand dairy industry is world-leading in many ways, but more should be done for the workers.
“I can say the working conditions need to be adjusted, because there is a thing that the farmer is using when you are asked them about the hours you are working.