Open season for exploitation of Pacific workers?

The Government’s removal of minimum wage protections for workers on the Recognised Seasonal Employer (RSE) scheme has drawn serious criticism from unions.

Employers will now be able to make deductions which will reduce pay rates below the minimum wage of $12.50.

The RSE scheme facilitates the temporary entry of overseas workers, mainly from the Pacific, to plant, maintain, harvest and pack crops in the horticulture and viticulture industries. “There have been significant examples of unauthorised and unfair deductions from RSE workers’ pay even under the existing regulations,” said CTU Vice President Richard Wagstaff. “Relaxing the minimum wage rule will only result in more blatant exploitation of already vulnerable workers as unscrupulous employers shift costs onto them.”

“These workers are not in the same situation as any other New Zealand worker. They do not have any choice about who they work for once in the country. They often have little or no understanding of what their rights are or whether deductions from their wages might be reasonable, and they often feel obliged to accept deductions if they want to keep the job.”

“The Government is opening the door for employers to treat the Pacific islands as a source of cut-price captive labour.”

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