The Catholic Agency for Justice, Peace and Development

Standing up for what's right

In 2016, we listened and talked with migrant workers and people who have supported migrants in the Wellington Archdiocese about their experiences of working in New Zealand. We heard of their joys and their struggles, cases of unfair treatment and exploitation, as well as instances when they found justice.

The outcome of this qualitative research was a report, “Stand up for what’s right – supporting migrant workers.” The report was released on 8 September 2016 in the lead up to Social Justice Week. Its aim was to help the Church and wider community understand the experiences of migrant workers, the barriers that prevent people from asking for help, and the role that parishes, Catholic communities and the wider New Zealand public can play in supporting people experiencing unfair treatment at work.

Our research captured a range of workplace issues that migrant workers have experienced and that support persons working with migrant workers have witnessed, including taking up employment below legal minimum work conditions, facing bullying and harassment, and being discriminated against in the workplace. While most of the workers we spoke with eventually moved on from exploitative employers to find other work opportunities, many remained reluctant to follow up and report cases of poor employment practice for reasons including fear of reprisal and apprehension toward interacting with the legal system and government authorities.

Since the report was released, the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) has initiated a policy and operational review of temporary migrant worker exploitation in Aotearoa New Zealand. Caritas participated in the consultation toward this review, and we are looking forward to the MBIE report on proposed changes set to be released in 2020. More information about the MBIE review can be found on their website: MBIE Temporary Migrant Worker Exploitation Report

Although “Stand up for what’s right – supporting migrant workers” was written in 2016, many of the issues captured in it are still prevalent among migrant worker communities today. Now, as we did then, Caritas calls on government agencies to do more to proactively monitor workplaces and on 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 “Stand up for what’s right – supporting migrant workers” report is available for free on the Caritas website: Caritas Migrant Worker Research Report.

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Tutu ana te puehu - Stirring up the dust