WELLINGTON-- New Zealand employers who abuse migrant workers could be banned from hiring foreign labor for up to two years under new rules coming in on April 1.
The new penalties -- or "stand-down periods" -- would stop employers who breached immigration and employment law from recruiting migrant workers, Immigration Minister Michael Woodhouse said Thursday.
"Migrant workers make a valuable contribution to our workforce and have the same rights as any other workers," Woodhouse said in a statement.
"It is simply unacceptable that those employers who exploit migrant workers are still able to recruit from the international labor market and disadvantage those employers who do the right thing," he said.
"Employers who have incurred an employment standards-related penalty will be banned from recruiting migrant labor for defined stand-down periods ranging from six months to two years, depending on the severity of the case."
Published guidelines and criteria would ensure that stand-down periods were applied fairly, consistently and transparently.
"Access to the international labor market is a privilege, not a right and if employers abuse that privilege by exploiting migrants or failing to comply with employment law, there will be consequences."
However, the opposition New Zealand First party described the rules as "a limp response to a major problem."
"Where are the increased numbers of workers for the under-resourced Labour Inspectorate to fully implement the legislation?" asked New Zealand First Party leader Winston Peters.
"The inspectorate has only 54 officers for the entire country; if Mr Woodhouse was really serious he would pump up the inspectorate immediately," Peters said in a statement.
The main purpose of the rule was to give the impression the government was doing something about "entrenched and widespread worker exploitation," said Peters.
A University of Auckland study had shown all sectors of the New Zealand economy -- construction, fishing, hospitality, dairy, horticulture, viticulture and international education -- were exploiting migrant workers.
"With the chances of getting caught so remote, the law will be widely ignored," said Peters.
Source: Philippines News Agency