How to Exploit Migrants Without Consequences – by Che van Lawrence

Updated: Dec 6, 2021

It was a beautiful, hot day in Octember when I first met Randeep.*

He had an inch-thick file with him and right on top was a settlement agreement scribbled on what

appeared to be a page torn out of a Gideon’s Bible. At first glance it looked fairly template (apart

from the scrawl) but Randeep was upset. He told me he did not read the ‘document’ before signing

it and was told by his (now infamous) advocate, that it would restore his employment.

The agreement most certainly did not do that.

What it did do was pay his advocate handsomely and leave Randeep with three months salary. . .

and no job.

Randeep had been working for a large, unfortunately named company for about nine months. In the

beginning he worked 40 hours a week for a little above minimum wage but after a month or so, his

boss started ‘requiring’ him to come in earlier or stay in late to do ‘maintenance’. The maintenance

was not part of his job description but Randeep was not familiar with New Zealand’s labour laws and

did the work he was told to.

Unsurprisingly this maintenance work soon became Randeep’s full time job, sometimes for up to 60

hours per week, with anything over 40 being unpaid. It was no surprise he had to work such long

hours, because the job involved repeatedly bending over and lifting heavy objects in a way that

could not be safely executed. Locals just wouldn’t do it.

After working this way for 12 hours a day for months on end, Randeep became unwell. The cause

was clear and so was the diagnosis. Randeep had to take time off and attempted to negotiate for

work that wouldn’t injure him - like the work described in his employment agreement. His employer

immediately became hostile and adversarial. He was then dismissed, while on official medical leave.

While searching for help, Randeep instead stumbled into the clutches of the most wicked vulture

known to employment advocates, nationwide. But at this point he was desperate. If Randeep didn’t

have a job, his visa would become invalid and he (along with his family) would be forced to leave

New Zealand.

His new turncoat consel assured Randeep that he would keep his job and be able to stay in the

country but instead, duped him into signing some ‘contract’ scribbled into the back of a Denny’s

menu. Then, like so many other exploited migrants, Randeep and his family were ordered to leave.

Is this story getting old yet?

The MBIE is adamant that if you’re an exploited migrant, you may be allowed to stay in New Zealand

long enough for your case to be heard at the ERA. How very generous of us! Come to New

Zealand where we’ll work you half to death, then fire you when you complain and even if you get a

good, sincere advocate, you still might get thrown out on your ear before your day in court.

Charming. Is it any wonder when we come across cases where migrants are locked in cellars and

have their passports confiscated?

Randeep forwarded me an email from The Vulture. He was mocking Randeep’s misfortune and

revelling at how he’d tricked this “lazy fool” into ‘going back to where he came from’.

Imagine taking money specifically to force your client into the position they hired you to avoid and

lying to them about it the whole time. Imagine having the drunken gall to mock them about it when

they ask for an explanation.

People are making good faith attempts to fill genuine skill shortages in New Zealand and when they

get here, they are viciously exploited by their employers. If they complain, maybe they will be heard,

maybe they will be stitched up by their advocate, or maybe they’ll just be deported without a voice.

Is this how a civilised nation treats its guests?

*Names and dates may have been changed

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