Low pay and poor housing have emerged as critical issues in a report commissioned by E tū on the experiences of migrant workers.
The research, which was funded by the Industrial Relations Fund, records the experiences of mostly Filipino construction workers in Christchurch and Auckland in 2017 and 2018.
The report, by researcher and lawyer, Catriona MacLennan also reveals wide-spread exploitation of migrants by immigration companies and so-called pastoral care companies.
Most experienced pay discrimination. While one earned $27.00 an hour – compared with $35.00 paid to Kiwi workers – he said others earn much less – $19 and $22.00 an hour.
Housing is a critical issue. In one case, three of the workers interviewed shared a sleepout with another ten in the house, all paying $150.00 a week. In another case, four families shared a four-bedroom home. Many experience damp, unhealthy living conditions.
Many are in debt to immigration companies when they arrive, while others were being gouged by companies providing services such as a car or internet access.
Most complained their pay was too low to meet immigration criteria for extended or permanent working visas or residency.
“For the first time there is research which shows migrant workers who are Filipino being underpaid because they are Filipino and for no other reason,” says Ron Angel, E tū Industry Coordinator Engineering and Infrastructure.
“When I was reading this, it nearly brought me to tears. The angst they were going through, and the suffering on a daily basis, being away from their families…and what got me was, here we were welcoming these people into New Zealand to help rebuild Canterbury and we didn’t look after them.
“In fact, we made life terrible for them and I feel ashamed.”
Ron says the issue of expensive, unhealthy housing also needs to be dealt with.
“If you’re going to decide you need migrant workers, then there needs to be reasonable housing for them,” he says.
“You can’t just bring them in and throw them into anything you can find.”
Ron says the report recommends government action, to ensure new-comers are properly supported and get the advice they need.
“If Immigration NZ wants these workers here, then it needs to provide that pastoral care,” says Ron.
For further information, contact
Ron Angel E tū Industry Coordinator Engineering and Infrastructure ph. 027 591 0055