Editorial: Scandalous inaction on labour law breaches
The Government's introduction of a reduced minimum wage for young people ($10.80 an hour) was either welcomed as an incentive for employers to hire more young people, or denounced as unfair and discriminatory.
But whether it is good policy or bad, some employers will pay as little as they can get away with - and they are getting away with plenty.
The lax policing of our labour laws is evidenced in the Government's apparent indifference to the abuse of migrant workers.
Labour Minister Kate Wilkinson sounded appropriately concerned, back in mid-August, when responding to One News revelations that large numbers of migrants were being exploited and underpaid by small-business owners.
She said she would investigate. She might usefully have started by talking with One News. It had reported finding some small business owners in Auckland who were offering work for as little as $8 an hour.
Finding the culprits wasn't too hard for the One News team. On Skywiki, a job-seeking website pitched at Chinese living in this country, the reporters found only one of six shortlisted jobs was paying below the minimum wage.
AUT business school researcher Danae Anderson - who said the underpayment of migrant workers is widespread - was worth a chat, too. She had surveyed 93 people at five Bay of Plenty kiwifruit orchards. All were being paid illegally.
And what has Ms Wilkinson done about it? Scandalously little.
One News this week reported that the businesses it exposed for offering illegal wages were still open for business and the owners weren't facing penalties.
The number of unannounced workplace checks has dropped, a promised education campaign hasn't been put in place and there have been no changes to labour inspector numbers or processes.
Labour's immigration spokesperson, Darien Fenton, is accusing the Government of turning a blind eye to labour law breaches. On the evidence of the latest One News report, a not guilty plea would be laughed out of court.