ANZASW Statement: A Call for more Support for Migrant Workers in New Zealand

ANZASW calls for urgent action to be taken to support temporary visa holders in New Zealand. There are currently about 350,000 temporary visa holders in New Zealand and up to 200,000 of these hold visas that have conditions that are likely to require amendments to be made to allow them to take up other employment. Migrants who have lost their job are not eligible for the job seeker support offered by the Government. Many people in this position are not able to leave New Zealand due to border closures and international flight availability.

Hundreds of people are wanting to take up new employment as well as employers wanting to employ people but are unable to, due to visa restrictions. This is particularly concerning as the wage subsidy comes to an end.

It is unacceptable to expect people to survive on no income, especially considering that these people significantly contribute to the New Zealand economy, pay taxes and often call New Zealand home. The success of many regions, such as Queenstown, has relied on the hard work of our migrant workforce. It is hugely concerning to see no support being provided for these workers. Within this conversation, the argument of “New Zealanders first versus migrant rights” is often brought up. As an association committed to upholding and promoting issues of social justice and human dignity, we strongly believe the Government has a responsibility to support migrant workers in Aotearoa.

Under S64 of the Social Security Act, it is legally possible to grant temporary emergency benefits to those who are not otherwise entitled to financial support during a pandemic. So far, the Government has failed to enact this. With reports of misallocation of wage subsidies throughout New Zealand, migrants are particularly vulnerable as they have no access to the benefit support that New Zealanders do.

Legislation fast-tracked on the 13th of May will allow migrants to work in jobs outside their visa conditions and will allow for a temporary 12-month period in which the Minister can impose, vary or cancel conditions for groups of temporary entry class visa holders, extend expiry dates and waive any regulatory requirements for certain classes of application. However, regardless of the legislation passing, the implementation of it has been delayed, leaving migrants stranded without an income. This delay further highlights the need to implement S64 as it would allow temporary support to those who find themselves in this position. The wage subsidy offered under S64 would provide migrant workers with $164 a week.

Last month the government made $30 million available through Civil Defence Emergency Management Groups to help those who need it. However, this has been used for daily food parcels and emergency accommodation for less than a week. ANZASW calls for immediate support to be provided to one of our nation’s most vulnerable workforces.

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Contact

Lucy Sandford-Reed

ANZASW CE

0274 349 0190