Students in NZ exploited in horticultural work
July 27, 2012
A number of international students in New Zealand are being exploited as labourers on vineyards and orchards, according to a report by the Auckland University of Technology (AUT) Centre for Occupational Health and Safety Research.
The report, Managed Migration? The health and safety human rights implications for student migrant labourers in the horticultural sector, found 93 international students in the Bay of Plenty vineyards and orchards were regularly working more than the 20 hours per week permitted by their student visas. The students worked an average of 29 hours per week.
The survey, conducted last year, also found that all of the students were earning less than the then minimum wage of NZ$12.75 (US$10.27) per hour.
The vast majority of the students interviewed were from India (96 per cent) and male (83 per cent). The AUT survey found that 43 per cent were enrolled on courses in Auckland, a five-hour return trip from kiwifruit towns such as Te Puke, where the students did tasks such as picking, packing, spraying, planting and processing. Ninety-one per cent were enrolled on diploma or certificate courses.
The report said, “The ability for employers across five worksites to pay illegal wages to all student migrant workers should be of concern to regulatory and enforcement agencies alike.” However, it also suggested there was a degree of collusion from the students, some of whom were happy to work the extra hours available in the industry to maximise earnings and were not attending their courses.
Labour Minister, Kate Wilkinson, has asked the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment to investigate the findings of the AUT report.