New Zealand Labor government to expand migrant worker exploitation schemes

New Zealand’s Labor government announced last week that it would ease restrictions on temporary migrant workers to address severe labor shortages in critical areas. Despite removing most COVID restrictions and reopening international travel, the Reserve Bank has described labor shortages as the worst in 50 years.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern during a press conference at Parliament in Wellington, Oct. 11, 2021. (Robert Kitchin/Pool Photo via AP) [AP Photo/Robert Kitchin/Pool Photo via AP]

With an official unemployment rate of 3.3%, Minister of Immigration and Workplace Relations Michael Wood told the media that the immigration system was being “streamlined” to help employers struggling with a lack of workers.

A further 12,000 tourists can now come to New Zealand and work over the next year, while people with existing working holiday visas will get a six-month extension. About 4,000 working holidaymakers are in the country and more than 21,000 temporary workers have obtained their visas.

As employers resolutely oppose workers’ growing demands for wage increases above the rate of inflation, Wood has announced lower wage thresholds for migrant workers in key sectors, particularly elderly care. , hospitality, construction, meat processing and tourism.

In May the government ‘tweaked’ the immigration system to make it easier for some migrants to gain residency, with then-immigration minister Kris Faafoi saying there would be no returns to rely on low-skilled and low-paid migrants. For most jobs, employers were required to pay migrants the median wage of $27.76, which is above the legal minimum of $21.20.

Under the new rules, tourism and hospitality employers will be able to pay such workers $25 an hour. Meat processors can pay $24 for entry-level jobs, with a cap on the number of visas set at 320. Workers will get seven-month visas. The salary thresholds will be updated each year according to the evolution of the median salary.

Wood categorically denied the pay cut was discriminatory or unlawful, and said local workers would not be disadvantaged, telling Radio NZ: ‘It’s actually a positive policy that will help us secure a supply of labour. sufficient labor for the key elements of our economy and will improve the conditions of workers in these sectors.

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