07 April 2009

New Zealand work permit programme centre of immigration debate

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The New Zealand work permit programme is coming under close scrutiny from the Government, union representatives and migrants, reports the NZ Herald.

The New Zealand work permit programme is being cutback to cope with the current financial climate.  Being a temporary workers programme, the Government feels that they are protecting the local workforce from the pressures of unemployment by reducing the number of temporary workers in the country.

However, by reducing the New Zealand work permit programme, the New Zealand Government is putting stress on those temporary migrants working their way towards a permanent New Zealand visa.

According to the newspaper, migrant advocates, union representatives and concerned migrants are attending a meeting this evening to discuss how the rights of migrants would be protected during the global recession.

"Migrant advocates have raised concerns that racist sentiments are being fostered and ask why migrant workers shouldn't have their rights protected.  New Zealanders ask why they should be sacked when temporary visa holders keep their jobs," wrote organiser Mike Treen, in an email invitation to the public meeting.

"This raises questions on how unions should be approaching migrant workers when there may be conflicting claims for support from different groups of workers who are their members."

Union leader Dennis Maga said the revoking of New Zealand work permits is unfair for temporary migrants who should be considered to have the same rights in the workplace as all other New Zealand employees.

Several cases involving New Zealand work permit holders have been the centre of media attention recently, including six Filipino metal sheet workers who had their work permits revoked after the immigration department wrongly extended their visas and caused local New Zealand workers to be laid off. 

In Queenstown, the adventure capital of New Zealand, the demography of the local workforce is primarily composed of New Zealand working holiday makers and New Zealand work permit holders, and local businesses are struggling to find employees for the winter season because the Government is cutting back the work permit programme.

While 45,000 permanent New Zealand visas can be granted annually, a record 188,000 temporary work permit applications were approved in 2007-08, which represents a 13 per cent increase on the year before.

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