Protecting fairness for workers and businesses

The Government is taking action to build an inclusive economy where more of us receive our fair share at work and businesses can compete on great products and services, not undercutting wages and conditions, Immigration and Workplace Relations and Safety Minister Iain Lees-Galloway says.

Two consultations launched today seek feedback on these issues, firstly how to tackle temporary migrant worker exploitation and secondly how to design a Fair Pay Agreements system to protect workers in vulnerable sectors.

“The Coalition Government’s vision with this work is to:

  • create a level playing field where good employers are not disadvantaged by providing reasonable, sector-standard wages and conditions.
  • build a highly skilled and innovative economy that provides well-paid, decent jobs, and delivers broad-based gains from economic growth and productivity fairly to all.

“We want to support safe and collaborative workplaces where minimum employment rights are upheld and people are fairly rewarded for their work,” says Iain Lees-Galloway.

“The consultations we are releasing today are designed to help achieve this vision, by exploring ways to ensure workers, particularly our most vulnerable workers, are treated fairly and are protected from exploitation. These protections will also support good employers to ensure they aren’t being undercut by exploitative ones.”

Iain Lees-Galloway says reducing temporary migrant worker exploitation in New Zealand will require broad changes to how we protect temporary migrant workers, including international students, and how we ensure businesses are meeting employment and immigration obligations.

“We must do more to protect the 235,000 temporary migrant workers and international students who have come to New Zealand and are contributing to our economy and society. Exploiting workers not only harms a worker’s finances, health and wellbeing; it also undercuts other businesses who are dedicated to doing the right thing.

To tackle temporary migrant worker exploitation we want ideas on:

  • introducing liability for parties with significant control over an exploitative employer
  • reducing the barriers to reporting exploitation by establishing dedicated phone and online reporting and migrant worker exploitation reporting and triaging team
  • supporting workers to leave exploitative workplaces
  • improving the tools available to the Labour Inspectorate and Immigration NZ to strengthen our enforcement
  • expanding the stand-down list to include immigration offences.

Iain Lees-Galloway says the Fair Pay Agreements consultation seeks feedback on policy design features developed after the work of the Fair Pay Agreement Working Group.

“Many working New Zealanders are not receiving their fair share. For a number of decades we have experienced increasing levels of inequality and poverty. Over that time, vulnerable workers have had less access to collective bargaining, and wages haven’t kept up with productivity increases.

“Fair Pay Agreements are one part of the Government’s plan to address this. They would be designed for occupations and sectors that need extra help to lift wages and conditions. They could encourage competition that is based not on low wages, but on better products and services, and investments in skills, training and equipment.

“Fair Pay Agreements would be an important addition to our employment law, and the Fair Pay Agreement Working Group gave us a solid foundation to work from. The Government wants to explore their recommendations and wider options to ensure we develop an accessible and workable system that offers benefits for all parties involved,” Iain Lees-Galloway says.

Both consultations close on 27 November.

For more information and to make a submission on the Fair Pay Agreement consultation please visit www.mbie.govt.nz/fairpayagreements.

For more information and to make a submission on the Temporary Migrant Worker Exploitation consultation please visit www.mbie.govt.nz/exploitationreview.

To report workplace exploitation, you can call 0800 20 90 20. To report an issue anonymously, call Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111 or fill out a form on crimestoppers-nz.org.