Communities urged to ‘stand up for what’s right’ on migrant worker exploitation
In response to ongoing accounts of the unfair treatment of migrant workers in New Zealand, Caritas Aotearoa New Zealand is calling for communities to ‘stand up for what’s right’ and support this vulnerable group to get help in a report to be released on 8 September.
‘Stand up for what’s right – supporting migrant workers’, is based on a small-scale qualitative research project about migrant worker experiences that was undertaken by the social justice agency in the Wellington Catholic Archdiocese.
The aim of the study is to help the Church community to understand the experiences of migrant workers, the barriers that prevent people from asking for help, and the role that parishes and Catholic communities can play in supporting people experiencing unfair treatment at work.
“We are aware that many people who move to New Zealand to work have positive experiences in New Zealand workplaces, but we are also aware that too many immigrant or migrant workers experience unfair treatment and unreasonable working conditions,” says Caritas Director Julianne Hickey.
“Those we spoke with who took jobs that paid below the minimum wage felt they had ‘no choice’. Below minimum work conditions were depicted as ‘normal’ by the employer and then taken on as a ‘necessary sacrifice’ by some migrant workers.
“Holding employers accountable to good employment practice is a responsibility that sits with everyone. It cannot be up to migrant workers alone to report cases of poor employment practice, and our research shows that having a good support person in the community can bridge several of the gaps and vulnerabilities that migrant workers face.”
The report also calls on government agencies to do more to proactively monitor workplaces, and for communities to show care and concern by supporting migrants to seek help through clarifying basic employment rights, referring them to accessible legal experts, and helping them to look for alternative work.
The study was undertaken as a contribution to the focus on migration for Social Justice Week this year (11-17 September) – a week set aside by the Catholic Bishops of New Zealand to consider, reflect and take action on a particular current social justice issue in the light of Catholic social teaching.