383 G Hehir AM 24Oct18

A union representative says the hospitality industry is rife with exploitation after some workers complained they were treated "like slaves".

The hotel management students are cleaning rooms at a flash hotel and claim they've been underpaid, overworked and, if they complain, threatened with deportation.

The students paid up to $6000 each to Wellington company Internship New Zealand to come here to gain international experience.

They were then employed as housekeepers by cleaning company AHS, which services rooms at the Grand Mercure in Wellington.

The students told Newshub they had been forced to doctor time sheets so some of their hours are not being paid and had their wages unfairly docked.

Union Union general secretary Gerard Hehir told The AM Show he had heard many stories just like the ones the students told Newshub.

View full interview here

He said the horticulture and hospitality industries were the worst as the system was set up to give power to employers.

"Because they're built on a low wage structure, temporary work, the work is often hidden. A lot of these workers clean work at night, in horticulture they're hidden away in rural areas," he said.

"So there's not a lot of public exposure for the rest of us. They can be organised on a very casual basis and there have become industries that have become structured on casualised low wage workers.

"Also seasonality, the ability to be able to pull people in and cut their hours, throw them out once they've finished."

Workers don't often speak out about the exploitation though because they have often paid thousands of dollars to immigration consultants or employers to get the job and fear being sent home.

"To be sent home, to be threatened with deportation, is such a personal, economic and social disaster for them and they simply can't afford to do that," he said.

"The employers know that and they simply say 'you make trouble, you complain, I'll get you deported,' we saw that quite vividly last night."

Submitted by

Gerard Hehir

Written 24/10/2018