Labour inspector priorities

Hamish Rutherford at Stuff reports:

Active monitoring of Easter 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 Simon Bridges 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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