Claims Chinese firms routinely underpaying

FRANCESCA LEE
Last updated 05:00 17/12/2012

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The Government has launched an investigation into claims migrant workers are being paid less than the minimum wage.

Ministry of Business, Innovation & Employment acting general manager, labour inspectorate, George Mason told The Press the problem was most prevalent among Chinese-operated hospitality businesses.

"The ministry has placed information in a wide range of Chinese media, including the largest Chinese migrant job site [Skykiwi.com], and is working with Chinese business organisations to ensure employers are aware of their responsibilities," he said.

"The ministry has also been working with Immigration New Zealand compliance officers in visiting businesses to determine whether there are non-compliance issues."

One migrant, who did not want to be named, said he had once worked in a Christchurch restaurant where he had been paid $45 a night working five to six-hour shifts up to four nights a week.

"It didn't matter how long you worked or how busy it was, you got $45 a night," he said.

He did not report the restaurant as the job was "just a side job" and he did not think it mattered.

The owner of the restaurant said he had paid his employees minimum wage, while fulltime staff got $15 an hour.

"We pay them in cash and take out the tax."

Another man said he had tried applying for jobs with Chinese construction companies when he first came to New Zealand.

He said the companies kept asking him to work for a day free so they could see whether he was suitable for the job, and then told him they did not need him because a lot more people had applied for the job. He suspected they were using this method to get people to work for nothing.

People posting comments on New Zealand Chinese website Skykiwi.com claimed they worked jobs that paid only $6 an hour.

One Canterbury person claimed to have worked three part-time jobs, none of which paid minimum wages.

The first time was for a fast food outlet at a mall which paid $8 an hour. At a motel, they claimed to be paid by the number of rooms they cleaned. They ended up being paid $17 for three hours of work.

The last job the poster listed was a noodle restaurant which paid them $9 an hour while they were on probation, and then $10 an hour when they were officially hired.

Mason said piece rates - when a worker was paid according to their output - could not be less than the minimum wage. Employers that failed to pay minimum wage could be fined or jailed if there were other immigration issues involved.

He urged employees receiving less than the minimum wage to contact the ministry.

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- The Press

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