Filipino carpenters rely on charity to get by

CECILE MEIER
Last updated 05:00 05/08/2014

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A group of Filipino carpenters recruited to work in Christchurch's rebuild had no work when they arrived and had to rely on charity to get by.

Recruitment and labour hire company Adecco promised fulltime jobs to a group of about 12 workers coming from the Philippines to work on Christchurch's rebuild. When the workers arrived on July 10, there was no work for them.

Adecco, acting as the workers' employer, paid them an advance of $880 gross the day after their arrival, but then left them without further payment for 2 weeks.

The workers confided their struggles to a church group.

Worker advocate Jim Consedine, from The Catholic Worker group, said the workers ran out of money and needed assistance. They had to pay rent and living costs and had sent money to their families in the Philippines.

With the help of charity organisations, Consedine provided food, warm jackets, socks, and money to them.

He said workers would not complain to their employers directly as it was not in their culture to do so.

"They're very deferential to authority and fear they're going to lose their visa."

A Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) spokesperson said the situation was of concern to the Labour Inspectorate and Immigration New Zealand. Both organisations were working to understand and resolve it.

"Employers who bring migrant workers to New Zealand must ensure all obligations are met, including the payment of wages."

MBIE was working to ensure that the company understood and met its obligations with respect to migrant workers.

Lexington Legal partner Paul Brown also got involved and contacted the company to ask why the workers had not been paid.

He said he was concerned about the way Adecco had initially handled the workers.

"These recruitment agencies have got a responsibility to provide at least some income to these boys if they come to New Zealand and can't work."

Adecco Personnel general manager Donna Lynch said leaving the workers without pay for two weeks was a mistake.

"We became aware on Monday [last week] that we had not paid this group the weekly payment due to them. We corrected the error immediately.

"This was a genuine mistake."

Adecco was not aware of any hardship despite its regular pastoral care and contact with the workers.

"We maintain face-to-face contact with them. However, we had no advice from them that they needed additional support such as food or clothing or we would have responded to these needs immediately."

Adecco said it heard from the lawyer after it identified the mistake. The workers received a letter last week telling them they would get paid weekly for a minimum of 30 hours every week whether or not they had to work. They received payment for the past two weeks.

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Lynch said Adecco's workflow depended on client needs.

The company would have work for some of the workers this week, she said.

- The Press

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