Retrenched Migrants in New Zealand Appeal for Work Extension

By NOEL SALES BARCELONA
Correspondent
Migrant Watch
Bulatlat

MANILA — Retrenched migrants in New Zealand want their work permits to be extended for three months to give them ample time to look for work.

Dennis Maga, coordinator of Migrante International in Aotearoa, New Zealand, said in a statement that they have already made an appeal to New Zealand’s Ministry of Immigration (MoI) for the three-month extension of their working permits. Maga said the demand is “just” because foreign workers contribute much to New Zealand’s economy.

“Migrant workers have been serving the needs of the New Zealand economy since the country opened its doors to foreign workers to meet its workforce shortage. Local workers must be protected, but we also seek protection for workers recruited overseas now made redundant,” Maga explained.

Migrante Aotearoa launched today, May 30, a petition to be circulated in various communities of Filipinos and other affected migrants from various nationalities at the public meeting organized by the Migrants Action Trust at the Windy Ridge School in Glenfield.

“Migrants workers received a two- to four-week notice of redundancy from their employers. This is not sufficient time for retrenched migrant workers to find a new job and apply for a new work permit. Many migrants and their families have lost their residency applications and are in deep trouble. They have sold their homes and assets in their country of origin to move to New Zealand and have nothing to return to,” the petition reads.

“Local workers must be protected, but we encouraged migrants and their families to come to New Zealand when we needed them to fill our labor shortage, we shouldn’t throw them out now that they are in need,” the petition states further.

They are raising the alarm because of the short notice given by the employers, Maga explained.

Based on information from the NZ Employment Relations Service (ERS) of the country’s Department of Labour (DOL), a process is to be followed in declaring an employee “redundant,” as stated in the Employment Relations Act 2000.

According to the law, an employer must give the employee due notice if it decides to make the position redundant. “The required period of notice should be in your employment agreement,” the ERS stated in their website.

“In all circumstances, your employer must follow a fair process. A fair process could include aspects such as: (1) giving appropriate notice about any redundancy proposal; (2) being open minded to alternatives to redundancy, such as redeployment; and (3) offering counseling and career advice services,” it read.

“Your employer can require you to work out the notice period or they may pay you for it,” it added.

Declaration of Redundancy

If redundancy of position must be made, it must be made in “good faith,” according to labor authorities.

According to New Zealand’s Department of Labour, before an employee can be declared as redundant, the employer must have a genuine work-related reason for such declaration. “Your employer cannot make you redundant because of concerns about you personally (such as your performance),” the ERS-DOL.

“Good faith,” as defined by Employment Relations Act 2000, is the honest and open dealing with one another of employers, employees and unions.

The ERZ-DOL said, that an employer cannot decide to make a position redundant until he or she has consulted the employee.

“Generally, this will involve your employer making you aware of what he or she is proposing and why. Your employer must give you any relevant information (for example, about the problems they perceive and their goals) so you can make a meaningful contribution, and the opportunity to comment on that information before the final decision on the redundancy proposal is made,” the ERZ-DOL explained.

ERZ-DOL also said one cannot be deemed as redundant because she is pregnant or if he or she is applying for parental leave.

“The law does not prevent employees on parental leave from being made redundant for legitimate reasons. However, it must be for a good reason and must be done fairly,” ERZ-DOL explained.

Challenging Redundancy

“If you believe that your employer has acted unjustifiably or you believe that the redundancy is not genuine you can raise a personal grievance. If the grievance is not resolved between you and your employer or by mediation the Employment Relations Authority or the Employment Court will look at each case individually, including whether: (1) the redundancy is for genuine commercial reasons; (2) provisions of the relevant employment agreements have been observed; and (3) employer has acted reasonably and fairly in the way the redundancy was carried out,” the ERZ-DOL stated.

“If an employer is found to have acted unjustifiably in a redundancy, the Employment Relations Authority or the Employment Court may decide on one or more of the remedies for personal grievances,” it added.

However, the ERZ-DOL admits that, generally, the authority and the court have no power to award redundancy compensation in a genuine redundancy situation, except where the employment agreement says that a redundancy payment will be made.

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