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HRC welcomes new migrant employer rules

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 22/02/2017

The human rights watchdog is praising a government move to crack down on employers exploiting migrant workers - but says it hopes new rules are just the start.

Immigration Minister Michael Woodhouse on Thursday announced the government is bringing in a "stand-down" period that will ban employers who exploit immigrant staff from recruiting migrant labour for periods of time.

He says depending on the severity, bosses who incurred a employment standards-related penalty from April will be barred from recruiting migrant workers for between six months and two years.

"It is simply unacceptable that those employers who exploit migrant workers are still able to recruit from the international labour market," Mr Woodhouse said.

The rules will not affect non-compliance at the "very minor end" of breaches and migrant workers already employed at offending companies will be allowed to work out the rest of their visa periods.

Human Rights Commissioner Jackie Blue is welcoming the move, saying there is an urgent need for systems to better monitor and deal with exploitation.

"Penalising those employers who show disregard for our employment and immigration laws is a positive first step," she said.

"It sends a strong message."

But migrant exploitation was a complex issue that required a multi-faceted response, Dr Blue said.

"We are keen to see that these new measures are just the start of actions aimed at addressing what is a significant problem, particularly in our dairy, horticultural, hospitality and international education industries."

Feroz Ali, 46, last year became the first person in New Zealand sentenced for people trafficking after bringing 15 Fijian workers illegally into the country and subjecting them exploitative working conditions on farms in the Bay of Plenty.

A report released the same week found migrant worker exploitation was widespread in some industries in New Zealand and some were working up to 18-hour shifts without a break, were being paid as little as $4 an hour.

At the time Mr Woodhouse said while exploitation in any quantity was a serious concern, he didn't believe it to be widespread or pervasive.

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