Cook Islands Employers Abuse Foreign Workers

Pacific Islands Development Program, East-West Center With Support From Center for Pacific Islands Studies, University of Hawai‘i

News Release

Cook Islands Workers Association Rarotonga, Cook Islands

November 24, 2014

Employers continue to abuse foreign workers who fill labour shortages, says CIWA president Anthony Turua.

"I am appalled and disgusted to see the increasing number of our employers abusing workers in work places and some of these workers are foreigners that have come from around the Pacific and Asia to fill in labor shortages.

"Some of these workers have their passport taken away from them and they have no one to turn to or speak out because of further victimisation and job security."

Some of these workers cannot seek legal advice because of the high cost therefore they remain silent and face the ongoing victimisation and harassment by employers, he said.

"These workers are human beings and are an asset in our economy and they deserve to be treated fairly."

CIWA would love to expose these employers names but these employees are too scared because of job security and also policy around the Immigration law, he said.

"The Immigration law has no jurisdiction to intervene with employee grievance and if an employer reports to Immigration that these workers have breached their contract they automatically deport them to which ever country they come from."

There have been repeated cases of this nature in the past where the employees are the innocent victim and in turn being deported without any fair judicial hearing, he said.

The Employment Relations Act 2012 outlays provisions to protect both the employee and employer however there is no one to enforce the law.

Employers and Employees are left dry to fend for themselves by seeking legal council to settle any grievances at a cost, says Turua.

CIWA has been addressing some of these employees’ grievances on a voluntarily base but with the increase number of reported grievance cases we are redirecting them to legal counsel for further advice.

"CIWA feels that government needs to put more resources into labour division of INTAFF to manage the scrutiny of workers employment."

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