17 January 2012

Too many cooks spoil the broth for New Zealand visa arrivals from China

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Many of the Chinese chefs working in New Zealand's restaurants are expected to work for less than minimum wage for fear of losing their jobs.

New Zealand visa

Many Chinese chefs in New Zealand are expected to work below the minimum wage.

The recent influx of Chinese migrants entering New Zealand is due to a free trade agreement with China which grants workers a New Zealand visa. While this agreement may strengthen diplomatic ties between the two countries, it has caused many workers to accept lower wages or face being replaced.

Chef is the most popular occupation covered by the agreement, with 200 positions allocated although the agreement also includes visas for Chinese tour guides, martial arts coaches and traditional Chinese medicine practitioners.

The demand for the New Zealand visas, particularly those for chef positions has been so high that New Zealand immigration authorities have stated it will begin making approvals in batches of 33 in order to speed up the process.

The workers' union which brought the issue to public attention has reported that several migrant workers have complained that they are either expected to work below the current minimum wage rate of NZ$13 (£6.77) per hour or accept minimum wage minus expenses.

"Our boss deducts money for staying at his property and meals at the restaurant, so effectively, they will be just be getting about NZ$8 (£4.16) an hour" a chef in a Chinese restaurant said.

"I have been told to either match this, or face having to go back to China when my working visa expires in March".

The New Zealand Department of Labour general manager John Howard denied receiving any official complaints which were specifically linked to the working visa program for Chinese nationals.

The New Zealand Visa Bureau is an independent migration consultancy that specialises in helping people apply for a New Zealand Working Holiday Visa.

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