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Site pulls down controversial ads below minimum wage

Radio New Zealand logo Radio New Zealand 16/05/2018

A woman feet and legs are shown wearing rubber boots and dark denim.  She is walking away from the camera towards a large hay-bale.  The grass and hay are a golden color, it is sunny and the sky is blue. © Lori Andrews/ Getty Images A woman feet and legs are shown wearing rubber boots and dark denim. She is walking away from the camera towards a large hay-bale. The grass and hay are a golden color, it is sunny and the sky is blue.

A website advertising jobs for backpackers and temporary visitors at below the minimum wage says it is now removing the ads.

A workers' advocate called out users on the Backpacker Board website, which offered about 600 jobs, for exploitation of workers after it emerged some had advertised roles below $16.50 per hour.

A spokesperson for the website said it took the welfare and working rights of backpackers seriously, and would monitor what was posted more closely.

"We moderate new listings placed on our website but employers are currently able to renew old adverts which may in turn show out of date salary information," a statement from the website read.

"We are now looking into how we can stop this from happening.

"After this minimum wage issue has been brought to our attention we have actively removed all offending listings from our website and going forward will monitor the issue closely."

Welfare advocate Chloe Ann-King publicly shamed the employers on social media taking screenshots of the ads that pay below the minimum wage, including in farming and dairy.

Ms King said the job market was like the wild west.

"They're being exploited and when you talk to them [backpackers], they know something is wrong, but because of lack of knowledge and oversight they don't know what to do," she said.

In some cases the employers did not know the minimum wage had gone up, she said.

"So once again I find that incredibly hard to believe because the governmental annual increase goes up at exactly the same time every single year," she said.

One farmer who offered jobs below the minimum wage told RNZ he was more interested in making sure the worker was fed and had a roof over their head.

However, employers must still follow the law and meet their obligations, Workplace Relations Minister Iain Lees-Galloway said.

"Labour inspectors are proactively looking through these websites looking out for this sought of thing and if they do breach the law they can expect to get a phone call," he said.

He said some of the ads appeared to include accommodation and food benefits.

"Often costs are taken out of wages that are paid ... but you'd expect the wage to be sufficient that those costs are not having too much of an impact on what people are earning," he said.

Federated Farmers vice-president Andrew Hoggard said entry level farm workers were usually earning around $18 an hour and there was no excuse for paying less.

He said if farmers were in doubt, there was a lot of support available from his organisation or DairyNZ.


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