New Zealand: Chinese construction workers caught in "bonded labour" by recruitment company, says union

Author: Debrin Foxcroft, Stuff, Published on: 14 January 2019

9th January, 2019

Over 40 Chinese construction workers say they have been left without work or accommodation in Auckland after their landlord and employer issued a trespass notice...The workers say they have been left in the lurch by NPL who offered the men work in New Zealand through a recruitment agent Peter Li, also known as Wenshan Li, in exchange for a fee. However, once the men arrived in New Zealand, they claim they had months without work, and were paid less than promised for the hours they did do.

NPL released a statement saying the company was under no obligation to provide accommodation to its workers, and had only done so on compassionate grounds. The company rejected claims it had charged the workers rent for the accommodation or utilities. "A group of employees refused to leave the property, and they allowed additional people who were not NPL employees to stay. This caused overcrowding." It said it had provided over $25,000 of free accommodation to the employees and had proactively offered alternative accommodation, and had worked with other employees to find their own accommodation. The company declined to comment further. 

Immigration NZ confirmed a criminal investigation into the recruitment circumstances. Unite Union national director Mike Treen described the case as one of "bonded labour"…The union leader said the workers felt NPL wasn't upholding their end of the bargain and they wanted to change their visas to be able to work for a different employer. However, their current visa conditions meant they were tied to the labour hire company…"New Zealand employers have come to depend on a temporary visa workforce. However, no company should be allowed to keep these workers on bonded labour…Workers should be allowed to move employers, at least within their industry, in order to prevent exploitation," he said. 

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Related companies: National Personnel