What does it say about our country that we would invite people to work here but treat them as second class citizens?
Just yesterday, I wrote that there should be better oversight of the living and working conditions of Pacific Islanders who are working here under the Recognised Seasonal Employer scheme. There are numerous recent examples of people coming to this country to work and having to accept poor living conditions because of their precarious position in society. There’s last year’s notorious example of the 15 Fijian workers who were the victims of this country’s first human trafficking charge and the plight of the Filipino workers involved in the Christchurch rebuild living in overcrowded conditions prey to unscrupulous landlords.
And now a Chinese company bidding to work on the City Rail Link proposes bringing in over 3000 of their own workers and housing them on a cruise ship. It’s likely that this would be an attempt to employ workers on wages and conditions that are lower than the New Zealand statutory minimums. But significantly lower labour costs would mean an enticingly low bid from the company.
Fortunately the Prime Minister has indicated he’s not keen on the idea, however this has happened before. Under our FTA with China, the company that won the tender to provide railway locomotives (subsequently found to have asbestos contamination) brought 40 engineers to the country. The Rail Maritime and Transport Union was unable to check their wages and working conditions, and have taken the matter to the Employment Relations Authority to determine whether these engineers should be paid under NZ law.
The Greens are strongly opposed to the importation of workers in these circumstances. We fought against the slavery and abuse happening to workers on foreign ships and fishing vessels in NZ waters with legislation that ensured our laws will apply in our territorial area. The same should apply on land.
And finally, quite aside from potential environmental problems, what are the living conditions likely to be like for those workers living for three years to five years on a cruise liner? How will they experience New Zealand, how do we show our manākitia when they’re cooped up like chickens in a hen house?
All people deserve fair working conditions and decent housing in Aotearoa. This scheme isn’t that.