Modern Slavery – Part 3

Tod Cooper
Member with delegated authority for
Procurement/ Online Training/ Whistleblowing

by Tod Cooper

TINZ Member with Delegated Authority for

Procurement, Whistleblowing

Third in a series of articles to build awareness on modern slavery, particularly in New Zealand.

In the previous issue of the Transparency Times, I noted that New Zealand sectors including construction, dairy, fishing, horticulture, hospitality, international education and sex work are at risk from Modern Slavery (see Modern Slavery part 1 and Modern Slavery part 2)

New Zealand examples of Modern Slavery and exploitation

Sadly, examples of modern slavery and exploitation abound in New Zealand. The sheer volume of news articles on this topic is overwhelming. How much more is undetected?

Below are a few recent examples:

  • Faroz Ali was convicted by the High Court in 2016 for multiple charges of human trafficking and exploitation, the first conviction in New Zealand for Human Trafficking. (see Modern day slavery and human trafficking in New Zealand.)

    The treatment of his victims was appalling.  Most of the victims were poor, living in difficult circumstances. Faroz prayed on their desperation for a better life.

    Crown prosecutor Luke Clancy said “that instead of having this opportunity to work and make money and provide for their futures, they were exploited, left with nothing and had to return to Fiji ashamed … that they had been misled, deceived and ripped off.”

  • The former owner of Christchurch bar and eatery, Sequoia 88, has been banned from hiring staff for three years after he included an illegal clause in staffs’ employment contracts where they would forfeit their holiday pay if less than six weeks’ notice was given when resigning. (see Business owner banned from employing staff after serious breaches)

  • Director Jag Rawat of Pegasus Energy Limited, which operated as a BP station in Hastings has been ordered to pay upwards of $132,000 in arrears to two ex-staff and $120,000 in penalties. (see BP franchisee owes $250,000 for breaching employment law.)

    Labour Inspectorate regional manager Loua Ward said “The affected employees (migrants) were not paid the minimum wage, or holiday pay. They were subjected to unlawful premiums being deducted from their pay and were at times working up to 16-hour shifts, with lesser hours falsely recorded in the business’s records.”

    “The pair was made to live in accommodation provided by the employer and pay excessive amounts in rent, despite poor living conditions where they were required to sleep on the floor.”

    “The employees continuously received threats from Mr Rawat saying that he would cancel their visas and they’d be forced to leave New Zealand if they spoke up about the mistreatment. Mr Rawat also threatened trouble in the employees’ home countries on return.”

  • Jail, home detention for Filipino restaurateurs over exploitation of workers in Auckland.

    “An Auckland restaurateur has been sentenced to 26 months’ jail and ordered to pay $7200, and her husband to eight months’ home detention and pay the same amount in reparation over immigration and exploitation charges.”

    Immigration New Zealand Assistant General Manager Peter Devoy said that the employee worked for the pair from April 2014 to July 2015 and claimed to have consistently worked at least 10 hours per day, six days a week, without any breaks.

    He was paid for at most 40 hours per week and did not receive any payment for the final three and a half months he worked at the restaurant in Birkenhead.

    The victim also had to pay the pair $150 per week to live in a makeshift room in their garage.

    “This employee was living at the defendants’ house and was taken to the restaurant by the owners every morning and then back to their house at night. He was told he would be reported to the police and sent home if he did not perform well in his job,” Devoy said.

    “He could only leave the house for short periods of time and cleaned the defendants’ house on Mondays when the restaurant was closed.”

  • Operation Spectrum, a six-month operation, commencing May 2017, led by Immigration New Zealand, looked for illegal workers, fraud and people smuggling in the construction industry. Over the six months of the operation, 54 people were deported, 85 people refused entry into New Zealand and five prosecutions have been completed and/or are pending against companies where there is a New Zealand based director. (see 54 people deported as part of Immigration New Zealand operation).

Many cases involve migrant workers because visa requirements can make them dependent on their job in New Zealand.  As a result, they become vulnerable to exploitation by unscrupulous employers, who often threaten consequences if they report illegal practices.

Summary

Modern slavery and worker exploitations is rampant in New Zealand.  Our laws are not sufficient and pecuniary consequences are negligible. Leadership starts with us, with New Zealand Business, small, medium, or large. 

Next Up…

In my next article, I will look at what companies can and are doing to prevent modern slavery and exploitation.

I will talk with Brent Wilson, Director of Global Workplace Rights at The Coca-Cola Company, on what The Coca-Cola Company is doing in eliminate workplace exploitation and modern slavery in their supply chain.  Brent’s insight will be particularly valuable as The Coca-Cola Company operates in over 200 counties across five global regions. They undoubtedly face some unique cultural, legislative and corruption challenges.

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