August 6, 2020

Sweeping changes to protect migrant workers

The Government has announced a number of changes to be implemented to protect temporary migrant workers, including international students from exploitation.

Changes will help prevent migrant exploitation, protect migrants, and enforce the law and “protecting migrant workers from exploitation is a priority for the Government.”

The Government is investing $50 million over four years to support the implementation of these changes.

The changes will be implemented in stages over the next few years. They include:

  • A new visa for exploited migrant workers to ensure that they can safely leave exploitative situations without jeopardising 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.
  • 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.

The changes will be supported by a substantial increase in funding for compliance and enforcement through Employment New Zealand and Immigration New Zealand. This will make sure that more reports are investigated and that exploitative employers will know that serious action will be taken against them.

These changes are a result of MBIE’s policy and operational review of exploitation of temporary migrant workers.

In a joint statement issued this afternoon, Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters, Minister for Workplace Relations Andrew Little, and Immigration Minister Kris Faafoie say temporary migrant workers will be better protected by sweeping changes to prevent exploitation and improve enforcement.

“This announcement helps migrant workers to better understand their rights and responsibilities when working in New Zealand and provides a clear avenue for help should they find themselves in an exploitative situation,” Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters said.

“Exploitation is an issue which affects all of us. It causes financial and mental harm to workers, and it also harms legitimate businesses who are undercut by these practices and damages New Zealand’s reputation as a fair place to work, live and do business,” Minister of Workplace Relations Andrew Little said.

“To make it easier for migrant workers to report and leave exploitative employment, we will be setting up a new dedicated free-phone number, online reporting and triaging functions. These functions are expected to be in place by mid-2021 and will be monitored by trained and responsive staff,” Minister of Immigration Kris Faafoi said.

“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, Kris Faafoi said.

These changes will begin to be implemented from next year. It is expected that the 0800 reporting line and new visa will be in place by mid-2021.

To report migrant exploitation, contact the MBIE Service Centre on 0800 20 90 20, or to report anonymously, call Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

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