A Newshub investigation into Filipino workers not getting jobs during a construction boom in Auckland has prompted a Government inquiry.
Immigration New Zealand will look into the matter, including whether immigration officials themselves unwittingly approved dozens of illegal employment contracts.
Newshub spoke to 16 Filipino workers, all of whom said they were brought here to work - but after months in the country, most have barely picked up their tools. They're desperate to do more - not just to help their own families back home, but to contribute to New Zealand as well.
"We don't just build buildings, we build the economy," one man told Newshub. First Union general secretary Dennis Maga has condemned the situation. "It is just appalling that these workers are skilled enough to help the building industry, and yet we are not utilising them."
Newshub discovered an addendum to the contract workers signed with labour hire firm Allied Workforce (AWF) contains an illegal clause - stipulating termination if the worker engages with unions.
Immigration NZ is in charge of reviewing employment agreements for foreign workers, and Mr Maga says they've made a "serious blunder". "We are really frustrated with how they acted on this," he said.
Immigration Minister Iain Lees-Galloway accepts it's possible that Immigration itself approved the illegal documents, but that's not a certainty. "If it did happen I would be very disappointed, but I want to give Immigration New Zealand the chance to investigate the facts and see exactly what did happen."
The illegal document has the signature of AWF manager Kurt Reed. He has not responded to Newshub's request for comment.
Simon Bennett, the CEO of AWF, also didn't respond - although he previously said he was "surprised" to see the document with his company's letterhead on it.
Matt Folkard, the manager of another labour hire firm, says he took on four AWF workers after they approached him earlier this year, saying they didn't have work either. "They're very appreciative of the fact that not only have they got good living conditions, they are able to work full time hours and able to send money back to their families in the Philippines, which is the entire reason that they're here."
He says getting foreigners here to work and then having them sit idle is bad for our reputation. "If they start hearing that people are coming and it's a waste of time, then it's highly unlikely we'll be able to attract good quality people going forward," Mr Folkard said.
Newshub has been contacted by six different employers offering to help get the Filipino tradesmen into work. In terms of the suspect document, the minister says it's possible that Immigration authorities were provided with one version of the employment contract and the workers received another.
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