Abuse revelations leave no choice but to overhaul RSE scheme

The Green Party is calling on the Government to overhaul the Recognised Seasonal Employers scheme in the wake of revelations of shocking human rights violations. 

“The Recognised Seasonal Employers scheme needs an urgent overhaul so it can guarantee that people who come to Aotearoa to work temporarily are treated with fairness and compassion — no matter where they’re from,” says the Green Party’s spokesperson for Pacific Peoples, Teanau Tuiono. 

“The Equal Employment Opportunities Commissioner, Saunoamaali'i Karanina Sumeo travelled to Blenheim last month to investigate the work and living conditions that Pacific people in Aotearoa were experiencing under the RSE scheme. 

“The abuse of Pacific migrant workers that she uncovered is an utter disgrace and an indictment of the RSE scheme. Migrant horticulture workers are being housed six people to a room, charged $150 a week to sleep in freezing and damp conditions which see them fall sick repeatedly, and then refused paid sick leave.

“The RSE scheme has been ripe for exploitation. The fact that this level of abuse can go on unnoticed to the people responsible for upholding minimum employment standards – the Labour Inspectorate and MBIE – would suggest they don’t even care.

“Saunoamaali'i Karanina Sumeo’s findings leave the Government with no other option but to radically reform the RSE scheme so that everyone is guaranteed a warm place to live, safe working conditions, and good pay. 

“We are part of a family of Pacific nations and our immigration settings must reflect that. This means building a relationship based on fairness and mutual wellbeing instead of what we see here, which is the colonial relationship of worker exploitation happening in real time,” says Teanau Tuiono.

The Green Party’s spokesperson for immigration Ricardo Menéndez March added:

“Pacific migrant workers deserve equitable pathways to residency and schemes that afford them the same rights as other migrants.

 “Migrants from the Pacific and elsewhere who come to New Zealand and care for our elderly, build our infrastructure and homes, and process our food deserve to be recognised and supported, not kicked out if their employers decide they’re no longer useful.

“But right now we know workers are being exploited, mistreated and underpaid. Visa schemes like it that tie workers to a single employer have only made this worse.

“Pacific RSE workers should have guaranteed access to the Pacific Access Visa and then to residency pathways for those wanting to stay and put down roots in Aotearoa,” says Ricardo Menéndez March. 

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