Staff at the Sky Liquor store in Auckland were allegedly humiliated, abused and even threatened.
02 February 2012
Migrant students endure awful working conditions to keep New Zealand visa
Several Asian students working at a local shop in Auckland have accused their employer of slave labour after claiming to have been sexually harassed while working for less than minimum wage.
The group, who entered the country as students using a New Zealand visa, claim to be living in fear after allegedly being threatened with deportation if they did not comply with the owner's demands.
They said the owner of the shop repeatedly abused and humiliating them; one of the unnamed group said:
"[The owner] will come and say 'are you gay', tap on our hip or sometimes try to pull down our pants, and then he'd take off his pants in the shop in front of everybody."
The group were initially reluctantly to seek help and instead tried to talk to the owner about the issues but were met with hostility, including violent threats.
"I tried to say something to him once," said one of the students. "He said to me 'I know how to put my foot on the Indian's neck'."
Another student claimed the boss had told him he would complain about the student's work and put his visa in jeopardy.
They explained further that they were expected to work much more than the 20 hours a week allowed under New Zealand immigration rules for student visas; one student claimed he had worked for three months straight with only two days off.
Another of the group alleges that the owner of the shop claimed to threaten to kill him on at least two separate occasions.
A reporter from news source ONE News attempted to talk to the owner but was informed that the employer, Ala'a Yousef Bader, did not work there and they must have the wrong address.
The owner of the building later confirmed it was in fact the correct address.
The group of students, who are from India and the Philippines, have now sought legal help; Max Whitehead, who is representing the group, claims that he had never heard such severe allegations in 25 years of practising law.
"Treating people like this in New Zealand is slave labour," said Mr Whitehead. "We don't need these sorts of people here."
New Zealand's Department of Labour has since confirmed that it will be investigating these allegations.
The New Zealand Visa Bureau is an independent migration consultancy that specialises in helping people apply for a New Zealand Working Holiday Visa.