NEW ZEALAND REASSURES VANUATU ABOUT WORKERS SCHEME

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Wages not to drop below minimum wage

PORT VILA, Vanuatu (Vanuatu Daily Post, June 8, 2009) – New Zealand High Commissioner Jeff Langley was resolute that the minimum wage in New Zealand remains the same and assured that Ni Van RSE workers will not be exploited.

He made the comments in response to queries over a New Zealand media report highlighting the New Zealand Opposition Labour party’s concerns that the government’s removal of the minimum wage protection for workers on the RSE scheme will lead to exploitation of Pacific Islands seasonal workers."

High Commissioner Langley said: "The minimum wage is NZ$12.50 [US$8.00] across the board and has not changed," he said.

Langley said the only changes were positive and transparent—one for Health Insurance to cater for medical needs where the workers get to choose their service providers and the other for NZ employers to recruit labour in New Zealand for a short term if the situation is urgent.

"We have good guarantee that ni-Van workers in NZ cannot be exploited.

"The Labour department in NZ has inspectors who pay frequent visits to these farms, there are mechanisms in place for pastoral care, RSE returnees have good contacts in churches and other places they could contact if they feel disadvantaged plus the NZ High Commission and Commissioner of Labour have an excellent cooperation in registering the concerns of ni Van workers," said Langley.

NZ Labour spokesperson, Darien Fenton was quoted by the New Zealand media in the article which also appeared on PACNEWS.

"At a time of increasing unemployment the last thing the region needs is employers able to import cheap labour…It exploits the Pacific workers and undermines the minimum wage protection for New Zealand workers," she said.

New Zealand Council of Trade Unions (CTU) was also quoted saying there have been significant examples of unauthorized and unfair deductions from RSE workers’ pay even under the existing regulations.

The NZ government has refuted and labelled the claims by the opposition as ‘plain wrong’.

"RSE workers need to make payments for accommodation and advances they receive. This needs to be done by agreed and upfront deductions from their wages. In the past, automatic payments were often set up instead and not transparent," explained New Zealand Immigration Minister Jonathan Coleman.

"Under the new system, the Department of Labour will require all deductions to be declared by the employer as part of their application to recruit RSE workers.

"This will ensure that deductions meet legal minimum standards, and that workers are aware of the deductions that will be made before accepting employment.

"Employers will also be subject to audit by dedicated labour inspectors," he said.

Vanuatu Daily Post: http://www.vanuatudaily.com

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