Recent claims by Ni-Vanuatu workers that they were underpaid by a Marlborough vineyard are unfortunately typical, says the recently formed Migrant and Refugee Rights Campaign (MARRC). The workers are employed under the Regional Seasonal Employer (RSE) scheme, and have taken their claims to the Labour Inspectorate and Immigration New Zealand.
“New Zealand has a long, sorry history of exploiting our Pacific neighbours as cheap labour,” says Gayaal Iddamalgoda, union lawyer and candidate for Wellington Central. “The RSE scheme is just a continuation of that, with the insecurity of short-term contracts enabling abuse by employers.”
MARRC calls for open borders to the Pacific. “Without the fear of deportation,” explains Gayaal, “Migrant workers will be more confident to raise concerns.”
“Those who do raise concerns are incredibly brave,” Gayaal adds.
“We call on the trade union movement and the wider community to back workers abused under the RSE scheme, and all migrant workers.”