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Investigation launched into Pacific worker exploitation

The New Zealand Human Rights Commission is investigating pay gap involving the Pacific workforce in the country.

RSE workers NZ
RSE Workers in a New Zealand orchard. Picture: New Zealand Foreign Affairs and Trade

The groundbreaking public inquiry will examine the causes and contributory factors of the pay gap, conditions of work, promotion, and career advancement of Pacific workers.

The inquiry will focus on the experiences of Pacific workers, but especially in the private sector in manufacturing, construction and health.

The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment had first highlighted the issue after releasing its own report in 2018, but it has come back into the public spotlight amid businesses struggling to cope during the ongoing pandemic.

Wage equity stands at its furthest between Pakeha (European) men and Pacific women.

The disparity of gender and ethnic gulf has Pacific women earning on 27 per cent less, according to figures from New Zealand’s Council of Trade Unions.

Pacific men were still paid 24 per cent less on average hourly wages than most New Zealanders.

The Human Rights Commission said its statistics suggests that Pacific workers are “disadvantaged systemically”.

The Human Rights Act itself, in Aotearoa, states it is unlawful to discriminate against a person on account of their ethnicity.

But the common law judicial system in the courts has only individuals and unions capable of making such claims against individual employers.

Equal Employment Opportunities Commissioner, Saunoamaali’i Dr Karanina Sumeo, whose office will conduct the inquiry told stuff.co.nz last year that care factor in the job “does not factor in pay for cultural competence” of Pacific workers.

“What happens is that those organisations then leave our people at the service delivery level and don’t prioritise moving them up the ladders,” she said.

This could distort the difference in pay scales.

So could the fact that Pacific diaspora fail to speak up.

“If you’re only here on a visa, people don’t feel safe to open their mouths if they feel like they’re being treated unfairly,” she said.

 

1 Comment
  1. Lavenia tikina 7 months ago
    Reply

    I was intrested.

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