Labour inspector priorities

June 7th, 2013 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Hamish Rutherford at Stuff reports:

Active monitoring of trading law breaches may be scrapped in favour of giving labour inspectors more time to investigate migrant worker exploitation.

While it is illegal for most businesses to operate on Good Friday and Easter Sunday except in certain tourist areas, many take the risk of a fine and open anyway.

Labour inspectors conduct checks on which businesses are open and also respond to complaints.

Labour Minister signalled yesterday that in the future officials may rely solely on complaints because inspection staff were needed elsewhere.

“There are some very serious issues in relation to migrant workers and exploitation in this country,” he said.

“It is a question of using our resources and the labour inspectorate better.”

This could mean “not necessarily having inspectors out on every corner on Easter trading weekends, enforcing the laws”, he said.

“I don’t think, and my sense is, New Zealanders wouldn’t necessarily want us to be over-enforcing that, having inspectors out there all the time.”

Hear, hear. Acting on complaints received is one thing, but sending the holiday police proactively around shops is too zealous.

And I agree that abuse of some migrant workers is a far bigger issue.

Darien Fenton, Labour’s spokeswoman for labour issues, said migrant exploitation affected thousands of people, especially in Auckland.

The number of inspections was “far from satisfactory” with only 35 inspectors covering the entire country.

However, she was unimpressed that resources may be taken away from policing Easter trading, saying it was “tacit approval” of law breaking.

I don’t want to see any worker exploited, and actually, requiring people to work on Easter Sunday is exploitation of the law.”

This could be out of an Orwell novel. No employer can legally force staff to work on Easter Sunday. But some employees volunteer to work because they want to earn extra money. Darien is against employees being able to earn higher wages!

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27 Responses to “Labour inspector priorities”

  1. KiwiGreg (3,255 comments) says:

    Better if Bridges put his efforts into overturning the restrictive law.

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  2. kowtow (8,487 comments) says:

    …….migrant labour exploitation…….

    Unemployment rate 6% and we’re importing migrant labour?

    Stop the importation and there’ll be no exploitation. Simple.Then the inspectors have nothing to inspect!And there’ll be work for New Zealanders.

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  3. chris (647 comments) says:

    @kowtow All well and good, except for some reason too many New Zealanders won’t pick fruit etc.

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  4. nasska (11,530 comments) says:

    ….” for some reason too many New Zealanders won’t pick fruit etc”….

    They would if WINZ did what was mandated by legislation & stopped paying benefits to those who refused to take the work.

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  5. JeffW (326 comments) says:

    It is disgraceful that the Ministry of Labour forces inspectors to work on public holidays.

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  6. nocommentkiwi (35 comments) says:

    I think most sensible people would agree that Migrant-exploitation should take a higher priority than Easter-trading, in terms of inspection.

    But “The number of inspections was “far from satisfactory” with only 35 inspectors covering the entire country.” is a salient point.
    It does seem a very low number.

    DPF responds to Fenton’s outrageous suggestion that Easter Weekend will result in exploitation that this is highly unlikely, because the extra hours are mutually beneficial – but the point is missed; policing of exploitation of any kind is compromised by the fact there isn’t enough inspectors.

    The framing “Darien is against employees being able to earn higher wages!” is dishonest – that’s not really what Fenton is getting at, just the example used.

    I don’t mind that this website isn’t objective (it’s a blog), but sometimes it urks me that real issues of discussion are brushed away for cheap-shots. If I wanted that, I’d head to WhaleOil.

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  7. scrubone (3,099 comments) says:

    This could be out of an Orwell novel. No employer can legally force staff to work on Easter Sunday.

    Outside of a few exceptions, no employer can legally open their business on Easter Sunday, but they do.

    Orwellian indeed.

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  8. Graeme Edgeler (3,289 comments) says:

    But some employees volunteer to work because they want to earn extra money. Darien is against employees being able to earn higher wages!

    There is no entitlement to holiday pay on Easter Sunday. It is not a public holiday.

    [DPF: I didn't say it was. Working on Easter Sunday means you earn more money than not working.

    Also you can ask for more money for working on a day, you can not be forced to work. If the employer really wants to open, they'll pay]

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  9. kowtow (8,487 comments) says:

    If orchardists offered better wages they would get pickers.
    By importing third world labour they can continue to pay third world wages.
    Supply and demand ,the market distorted by govt intervention.

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  10. transmogrifier (522 comments) says:

    While I understand the sentiment behind forcing people on the dole to get work, I imagine that this is a less-than-ideal solution for employers, who simply want workers who put an effort in and do a good job, rather than a bunch of surly slackers forced upon you. Hence why migrant workers will always be (and should be) welcome here.

    Maybe have people on the dole who are capable of working but somehow never quite manage to get a job start off by doing menial tasks for the government for their money, hopefully forcing them to get a bit of pride and ambition and improve themselves for the private sector.

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  11. s.russell (1,642 comments) says:

    I think the Easter trading laws are stupid and should be changed so shops can open when they want at Easter.

    BUT, shops that open now in despite of the rules are flagrantly flouting the law. It does not matter that it is a stupid law, that is what they are doing.

    Mr Bridges’ statement smacks of nudge, nudge, wink, wink, we’re going to look the other way. I think that is deeply wrong. I do believe very strongly in the rule of law. It’s open defiance should not be tolerated or we are undermining that crucial foundation of our society.

    And the whole business of migrant labour is a red herring: the ministry has 363 other days in the year to deal with that issue. The additional resource freeded up to deal with it by a more relaxed approach to Easter trading is insignificant.

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  12. s.russell (1,642 comments) says:

    If orchardists offered better wages they would get pickers.

    True. But then they would not be able to sell the fruit against competition from imports, so there would be no fruit-picking jobs at all. And the whole industry (which employs a whole lot of other people from horticultural scientists to engineers to winemakers to managers to agri-manufacturers) would collapse.

    And who would win then? Nobody, or at least nobody in New Zealand.

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  13. chris (647 comments) says:

    If orchardists offered better wages they would get pickers.

    Possibly. But see s.russell’s comment above.

    By importing third world labour they can continue to pay third world wages.

    I happen to know someone who brought workers over from Asia to pick fruit (because he couldn’t get local workers to do it) and they most certainly didn’t pay them third world wages. They also helped the community the workers came from.

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  14. b1gdaddynz (279 comments) says:

    Fruit Picking is generally paid by volume picked so in order to get a “decent” wage you actually have to put an effort in; one of my boys has done a bit and he was earning good money because he was fast! He said most of the other Kiwi’s who turned up to start with him lasted less than a week because they didn’t want to work hard and complained that they didn’t get good money. He said that the best workers were generally Asians who worked as hard as they physically could and some of them were effectively earning more than $10-15 an hour more than he was! Hardly exploitation and it is better money than at home!

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  15. b1gdaddynz (279 comments) says:

    I have done it myself when I was younger and actually really enjoyed the work; I was hampered by a shoulder injury that makes working overhead difficult otherwise I may have stuck at it longer!

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  16. chris (647 comments) says:

    @Graeme Edgeler That’s really interesting. I had no idea Easter Sunday wasn’t a public holiday. I assumed it was because shops had to stay closed, which of course makes having to close on Sunday even more odd. For anyone interested, the Dept of Labour website has the information here: http://www.dol.govt.nz/workplace/knowledgebase/item/1578

    Not being a holiday, shops that have to close have no legal requirement to pay their employees for not working that day, although of course it depends on the employment agreement.

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  17. b1gdaddynz (279 comments) says:

    It does seem pretty slack that there are only 35 Labour inspectors for the whole country though and it does seem pretty weak to say that they need to re-prioritise them for 2 days a year! I can’t really see it making any difference!

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  18. Manolo (13,783 comments) says:

    Wasting bloody time with outdated, antiquated trade laws. Time to move to the 21st century and abolish them.

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  19. Zapper (1,021 comments) says:

    MUST…NOT…AGREE…WITH…THE…GOVERNMENT

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  20. dime (9,972 comments) says:

    never realised you were such a progressive manolo

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  21. kowtow (8,487 comments) says:

    transmogrifier says put dole slackers in govt jobs.

    They tried that ,gave Winston and his herd a good one in parliament ,but they walked off in a huff when they saw the other guy getting money he wasn’t entitled to.

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  22. edhunter (547 comments) says:

    So why stop at Easter, why not ANZAC Day & Xmas Day?
    2 1/2 days a year when shops cant open, what’s the big deal, I’m not religious but neither to worship at the feet of the almighty MALL. What’s the point of a public holiday if half the public have to bloody work?

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  23. Dave Stringer (188 comments) says:

    She was unimpressed that resources may be taken away from policing Easter trading, saying it was “tacit approval” of law breaking. “I don’t want to see any worker exploited, and actually, requiring people to work on Easter Sunday is exploitation of the law.”

    Does this mean she doesn’t want the inspectors to go t work and police Easter trading, thereby not exploiting them under the la?

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  24. chris (647 comments) says:

    What’s the point of a public holiday if half the public have to bloody work?

    I agree with your sentiment and I quite like Easter with the shops all closed for a couple of days. The only catch is, as Graeme pointed out, Easter Sunday isn’t actually a public holiday. Which is why it being a day shops can’t open a bit odd. I find the Easter trading thing odd. You can’t open on Friday (public holiday) and Sunday (not), but can on Saturday (not) and Monday (holiday).

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  25. KiwiGreg (3,255 comments) says:

    Well Chris you arent obliged to go to the shops. What you are really saying is you dont want anyone else to be able to.

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  26. The Scorned (719 comments) says:

    Religious fascists of the Right and socialist control freaks on the Left united in violating the rights of people to use their own property and to freely trade with each other….same old same old….sigh.

    And the blatant irony of violating those rights on ANZAC day just boggles the mind.

    Trading laws have no moral validation and should be ignored and overturned….and one day will be.

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  27. Nukuleka (327 comments) says:

    I have always wondered about all you overweight Burger King munching mall rats who come out in cold sweats every time you think of those 3 and half days in the year when you have to do something other than shop shop shop.

    3 and a half bloody days in the year when shops are shut for heaven’s sake.

    Knock over Easter and Christmas Day will be next. Haven’t any of you something called a heart?

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