The complaint from some of the Filipino workers working for Tech 5, was that they were shown one employment agreement in the Philippines, & given something quite different to sign once in New Zealand.
The New Zealand employment agreement said they were liable for a lot of additional costs that they did not know about, like recruitment costs, the cost of airfares, the cost of training and the cost of tools.This added up to a potential liability of around $7000. TV 3 / 3rd Degree became aware of Paul's involvement on this, and they interviewed him as part of their investigation against migrant exploitation.
Following the TV program, the Philippine Ambassador to New Zealand, Ambassador Benavidez, came to Christchurch, and had a meeting with Paul.
Read the Unite union newspaper article about Tech5 which included Paul’s interview with TV 3
““It’s a single bedroom,” says lawyer Paul Brown. Three guys living and cooking in a single bedroom? There’ll be no one in New Zealand who is ever going to accept that as reasonable living conditions.”
That’s why we have employment agreements, and that’s why the law says you have employment agreements, so that you do not do this verbally,” says Mr Brown. “You prevent disputes by having a written employment agreement.”
But Mr Brown’s biggest concern with the contract is the small print in addendum one – specifically, point six. It’s a warning that if the employee does not complete their three years with Tech5 they will have to pay the company a bond of more than US$10,000.
I would call that an attempt at bonded servitude,” says Mr Brown. “That’s a direct attempt to stop these guys working for someone else.”
Bonded servitude is an emotive term for sure, but Mr Brown says that’s the way some workers see it.
Read the Stand against Slavery article following the TV 3 program:
“Stand Against Slavery believes that the government should be moving on policies to ensure that migrant workers are protected. We agree with Paul Brown, lawyer for some of the Tech5 employees, that every person in New Zealand who is legally able to work, should have access to basic standards of employment law. We also believe that the open-visa policy for exploited migrants should be addressed urgently and incorporated into the Immigration Amendment Act (No 2) Bill”.
Filipino media also picked up on this story:
Lawyer Paul Brown, who represents Filipino workers in Christchurch, said another point of concern with Tech5 contracts was an addendum imposing a bond of $10,000 to employees who terminate their employment before their set three years.
"I would call that an attempt at bonded servitude. That's a direct attempt to stop these guys working for someone else," he said.
As Paul appeared in more media regarding the exploitation of migrant workers, more media and researchers got in contact with Paul for his comments.
The link below is to a report prepared by Dr Christina Stringer, of the Auckland University Business School. Her report is called "Worker exploitation in New Zealand: a troubling landscape." She interviewed Paul as part of her research for this report. From the report:
In 2013, Michael Morrah (2013), as part of TV3’s (former) 3rd Degree series, investigated accounts of oppressive contracts, loss of jobs and the non-payment of wages. He identified workers living in overcrowded living conditions and paying excessive rents – in one such case eight people in a converted garage paid $155 per week each for accommodation. Further, some Filipino migrants, employed by Tech5, encountered a contract situation wherein the contract they were shown in New Zealand differed from the contract they had signed in the Philippines. A key difference was the schedule of costs workers were liable for – in the vicinity of $NZ7,700 to cover airfares, tool kits, insurance etc. If employees failed to complete their contract of three years, they would be required to pay a bond of $10,729. Paul Brown, Employment Lawyer, referred to this “as an attempt at bondage servitude” (interviewed in Morrah, 2013).