The government's decision to grant a pathway to residency to 165,000 people in Aotearoa on temporary visas is a win for all working people, one that Unite Union led form the very start.
This campaign petition was launched in November last year jointly with the Migrant Workers Association and got nearly 20,000 signatures. We approached other unions and the Council of Trade Unions for support which also happened.
We approached employers and political parties to support the campaign and in April 2021 the Green party came fully onboard. No other party offered support for the demands - including Act and National. Some Labour MP's appeared sympathetic however so we remained hopeful.
We also organised protests that were getting bigger and bigger as the year went on and the need for a pathways process was urgently needed.
Both National and Labour had in the last few decades created a system of migrant labour exploitation through the massive expansion of temporary visa numbers while freezing the number transitioning to residency.
A bigger and bigger percentage of the workforce was being kept permanently in a temporary status which made them vulnerable to exploitation by unscrupulous bosses - which means nearly all bosses.
Over the last two decades, temporary work visas went from 40,000 a year to 250,000 a year before Covid 19 hit the economy. Some families had been on recycled temporary visas for a decade or more. The chance of transitioning to residency just became harder and harder because the residency numbers being issued stayed about the same - 40,000 a year while temporary visas numbers exploded.
Whole sectors of the economy became dependent on temporary visa holders. This also depressed wages in these industries because workers visas were often tied to particular employers and people were desperate to get them renewed each time. Remember the screams from the Kiwifruit industry this year when they couldn't get people to pick fruit for the minimum wage on offer. Well a record season was picked and they had to pay workers a higher wage to do it. That is called "the market" at work.
Giving the workers in Aotearoa a pathway to residency means an end to this form of bonded labour and we should never go back to that situation again. The elitist points system for permanent residence is not fit for purpose. We ended up with PhD's driving taxis. If we need carpenters, they should have a pathway to residency and not be bonded to a particular employer.
The immigration reset should ensure we end all forms of migrant labour exploitation permanently.
To check whether you may be eligible for the 2021 Resident Visa you can go this Immigration New Zealand website.