Thursday, November 17, 2016
AntiCapitalists against Trump- Michael Treen Nadia Filistin Line Lux and Joe Carolan discuss the Trump Presidential victory and what it means for politics in America and elsewhere, on this month's Workers Voice radio show. http://www.planetaudio.org.nz/workersvoice/player
Saturday, November 12, 2016
Tuesday, November 08, 2016
Deportation is a word that sends shivers up most ordinary people’s spines. Having invested all they own and can find financially, emotionally and socially, being deported out of a country that they want to make home temporarily or long term is every migrant’s worst night mare. Social stigma attached to deportation is so overpowering that most people fail to consider that the deportees may be innocent and being victimised.
The issue of deportation orders being handed out to International Indian students in New Zealand has taken over much of the media and political arena to some extent in the last few months. Hundreds of students mainly from Hyderabad and Punjab are affected by the unfair deportations. Unfair because India based unscrupulous immigration agents acting on students’ behalf submitted fraudulent financial documents as evidence for living expenses to Immigration New Zealand. The agents have been committing this fraud together with corrupt Indian bank officials. The students had no knowledge of this fraud. This fraudulent activity has been revealed in an investigation report publicised in June 2016 by Immigration New Zealand’s Mumbai Area Office. How is it fair to punish the students for something they have not done?
Some responsibility must also be taken by the Private Training Establishments (PTE) in this entire mess. Since receiving deportation orders the affected students have been almost abandoned by the PTEs and been referred back to India based agents who are nowhere to be found. Many have been stopped from attending classes. New Zealand Qualification Authority’s code requires all PTEs to comply with Pastoral Care of International Students whereby the PTEs are responsible for the students’ mental health and wellbeing.
However, the largest, the most critical and the most influential responsibility sits with the New Zealand Government. Let us start with the National government list MPs of Indian origin. New Zealand has 2 at present that conform to this category. When requested to intervene on behalf of the affected students, both MPs have been repeating standardised statements handed down from the bosses - the matter is in the hand of Minister of Immigration and it would not be appropriate for them to comment etc. One of the MPs went as far as comparing the students with fridges imported to New Zealand from China that are returned to China if they are found to be faulty on arrival in New Zealand.
The students and their supporters formed a delegation consisting of representatives of the affected students, The Catholic Church in NZ, The Anglican Church in NZ, Secretary of NZ Council of Trade Unions, leading human rights lawyers and members of civil society. This delegation requested in person meeting with the Minister of immigration. After consistently making contact with the Minister’s office for two weeks the delegation’s request was rejected on the basis that the Minister does not deal with individual cases. One has to wonder at the ability of NZ government officials to grasp basic information. Hundreds of students are affected by unfair deportations and the delegation had clearly stated in their request that the aim of the meeting was to seek amnesty for all affected.
Further to this some cabinet ministers and MPs have been claiming in media interviews that many students facing deportation have been involved in criminal activity in New Zealand. This a very careless and irresponsible statement as this manufacture’s public’s consent to label all student facing deportation as criminals. On one hand the government is unwilling to meet the delegation as ‘it would not be appropriate to discuss individual cases while they are being investigated.’ And yet on the other hand the government is happy to label ordinary people as criminals without providing any evidence. Where is justice?
Help has also been sought from the Indian Government by requesting the Indian High Commissioner in New Zealand to intervene. Several tweets have been sent to Sushma Swaraj, External Affairs Minister. Neither have helped in any way.
The actions taken in support of the affected students by Migrant Workers Association along with other supporting organisations (NZ Council of Trade Unions, Unite Union, Socialist Aotearoa, First Union, The Catholic Church, The Anglican Church, The Labour Party of NZ, The Green Party of NZ, The Communist League, Racial Equity Aotearoa, Panthak Vichar Manch, Azad Rang Manch, Radio Inqilaab) have consisted of public meetings, a petition, 5 protests in six weeks, extensive media interviews and many awareness raising sessions. This has now truly turned into a campaign that is gathering strength very fast. The evidence lies in the fact that the Prime Minister of New Zealand and many of his MPs are consistently being asked by media and the public about the student deportations and what the solution is. 2017 is a general election year in New Zealand and before that one of the Auckland constituencies with a large Indian population will have a by-election in December this year. Immigration is one of the main points for most political parties in the upcoming elections but even more so for the governing National party.
Most international students are given entry into New Zealand to study not so useful courses. As a vast majority has to work to live, they end up in jobs that pay very little and mostly well below the legal minimum. New Zealand is effectively bringing in cheap labour under the guise of export education. This government has to stop treating people like commodities and it has to provide meaningful opportunities for all in New Zealand. Like most capitalist countries New Zealand also suffers from concentration of wealth in the hands of few. The ordinary people need to understand this phenomena and hold the government accountable, and not the migrants, for speeding up the killing of an already dying economy.
While the students and their supporters have been successful in building a strong campaign, the journey is not over until the demands have been met.
Student demands are very simple and straightforward:
Cancellation of deportation orders
Permission to stay in New Zealand to complete education
Permission to apply for one year open term work visa upon completion of education
Migrant Workers Association
Saturday, September 24, 2016
International Indian students facing deportation from New Zealand continue to fight for justice with a protest planned outside a meeting on Monday evening being attended by National MP Dr Parmjeet Parmar and Minister of Finance Bill English.
The students and their supporters are particularly incensed at the failure of several National MP’s of Indian ethnic origin who claim to represent the Indian community but have been conspicuously silent on this issue
They students say they are victims of unscrupulous India-based immigration agents who have used fake financial documents to get them into the country on student visas. These students had no idea that fake documents were used by their agents. Deporting them for something which they have not done is unfair.
The students held a peaceful protest on 3 Sep outside the offices of National Party list MP Dr Parmjeet Parmar. A petition by the name of ‘Justice for Indian Students in NZ’ will be delivered to the Minister of Immigration and the Prime Minister. There has also been support from the wider community through public meetings.
Earlier this week the issue was raised during question time in Parliament by the Labour Party, The Green Party and New Zealand First.
Representatives from the Catholic Church in Aotearoa, the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, the Council of Trade Unions and other members of civil society including Dr Rodney Harrison QC have been requesting to see the Minister of Immigration on behalf of the students for over a week now. The Minister continues to ignore their request.
Despite such outcry from all quarters, the government has not made any efforts to deliver justice to the Indian students. Instead the government continues to portray the Indian students facing deportation as criminals. The students’ future is in the hands of the New Zealand government.
To further the cause of delivering justice for the Indian students facing deportation, a protest has been organised for 6.30pm on Monday 26 Sep outside Lynfield Community Church, 35 The Avenue, Lynfield, Auckland.
Let’s gather Monday 26 Sep at 6.30pm outside Lynfield Community Church, 35 The Avenue, Lynfield, Auckland
Friday, August 05, 2016
"There is something deeply morally wrong about a small minority in our society making huge profits from non-productive speculation, setting the economy up for a crash, whilst hard working people struggle to keep up with rack renting, never mind never being able to afford their own home," he says. "Unions have had enough of this, and we are going to build a movement to solve this problem like we did in the 1930s."- Joe Carolan, Unite Union.
Ben Peterson, Unions Auckland Housing Action Committee
Mike Treen, National Director of Unite Union
For Sale ? For Living ?
Who destroys our dreams ?
Wednesday, August 03, 2016
Recently around the country, mostly in Auckland, a peaceful protest movement called Park Up For Homes is growing and spreading. Organised by community members in conjunction with Child Poverty Action Group, the protest is about the complete inaction by the government to provide warm, dry, safe and affordable homes for the most venerable in our society. As a result of their inaction more people are homeless and sleeping in cars and many more people having 15+ people living in one 3-bedroom house as private rentals are becoming unaffordable for many. So the general public are coming out in support by sleeping in their cars overnight to show their solidarity for the people who this is a constant sad reality for. Hundreds have turned up at each protest.
So far we have seen protest action in Otara, Mangere, Onehunga, Henderson, outside of parliament and protests also being planned for Hamilton and Napier. A few politicians have come out to give a speech and show support. The most frequent being Marama Davison from the Green Party. Park up Onehunga even had world renown boxing great David Tua showing his support.
What has caused this? Wages over the last 30 years have not kept up with the cost of living and inflation, we have a housing market which is a “free for all” for investors buying up houses and leaving them sitting empty due to excessive capital gains being made in short periods of time. We have over 33,000 empty homes in Auckland alone. We have a housing shortage in Auckland of approx. 40,000 homes.
An uncontrolled thirst for property ownership caused by successive capitalist governments only serving the interests of the rich with their neo-liberal policies for the last 30 years are fuelling this crisis. The current government is so pre-occupied in selling of state housing to private developers in the middle of this shortage to serve the own selfish and inhuman ideology.
The National party has proposed giving out $1b in loans to councils for infrastructure which is really only going to be going to rich private developers. Labour has reached out further announcing it would build 100,000 homes, 50,000 in Auckland and at least 10,000 homes each year nationwide. Whilst this is definitely an improvement, it does not go far enough to stop housing from being an investment option. With Labour saying that an affordable house is going to be approximately $600,000. Even someone on $70,000 annual salary wouldn’t be able to service a $500,000 home loan, neverlone a $600,000 one. And what would you even get for $600,000 in Auckland anyway? And to top this off, neither party has mentioned anything about rental control.
Average rental prices are over $500 per week in Auckland. To move in you’re going to need at least $2,500 in bond and advance rent. How’s someone on minimum wage of $15.25 going to afford the rent, never lone the bond to get it? “Too bad!” according to our two main political parties.
Socialists and community activists must keep the pressure on our capitalist government to ensure that as much attention as possible can be brought to this monstrosity of an issue in hope that people power will prevail and we’ll get some real action. People before profit all the way.
Saturday, July 30, 2016
In recent times we have seen a lot of police brutality on a global scale and especially in the US, and then last week we saw similar crimes in New Zealand with two separate incidents within a few days of men being shot by police – one, who was unarmed, died, and the other is in a critical condition.
o justice. This year alone police in the US have shot 600 people. It is obvious from the actions of the police that they know they have complete impunity.
about US police doing training in Israel in the horrific and illegal methods used by the Israeli military to oppress, torture and murder Palestinians including women and children. It shows an attitude in policing that “treats minorities as enemies that must be pacified rather than citizens to be served” as Aljazeera America put it in a 2014 article about the Israel connection.http://america.aljazeera.com/opinions/2014/8/ferguson-police-violenceisraeliandusmilitarizedpolicies.html One must wonder what is behind all this.
Thursday, July 21, 2016
Last weekend, we had our first game of Monopoly with the kids in the Carolan household. It was Oisin’s birthday present, and pretty soon both him and his sister Aoibheann were buying up the streets of the old London version, from his cheap 100 pounds fixer upper of the Angel, Islington, to her well appointed exclusive 400 pounds loft in Mayfair.
The kids asked what all the green houses and red hotels were for.
“Collect all the streets the same colour, and then you can build houses on them to jack the rent up by hundreds of dollars” said Heather.
“But that’s not fair, Mum”, said Ois- “houses are for living in. What if we can’t afford it?” Ahhh, that’s my socialist boy! And in a nutshell, that’s why the original Landlord’s Game was invented by socialist Elizabeth Magie. The world is not fair, and Auckland has turned into one big board game of Monopoly, one where everyone does not start equally with fifteen hundred pounds, and the Bank is rigged.
The kids are angry- so here’s my proposal.
There are 33,000 empty rental properties on the board at the moment in this city alone. Organising 33,000 seperate protests or occupations is a challenge that even General Strike could not command. Instead, let’s play a game of Auckland Monopoly.
On the one Glorious Day, we carry out four colour coded occupations of four empty properties in Auckland City.
Team Brown is for the low income streets.
Here we will organise an occupation of an empty state house, raising the demand to stop the sell offs, and to build 10,000 new State Houses and Council Houses every year.
Team Orange is for the low paid workers trapped in the rental sector, who have few tenant rights and can be evicted by landlords upping the rent by $100 or more a week. Here we will occupy to fight for Rent Controls, Tenant Rights and a WOF for healthy, warm homes.
Team Red is for those workers who dream to one day own a family house of their own- bit of a garden, Kiwi dream etc. This action will be about what’s affordable and what’s not- even if a worker was paid a living wage of $20 an hour- how many years would it take them to buy a $600,000 house?
The last team, Team Green, would identify the elite 1%, and capitalist speculation, as the enemy, whether foreign OR domestic.
It would target a property valued in the millions of dollars, one which could house dozens of people, or one that lies empty whilst our homeless freeze in garages, in cars and on the streets. This action would demand that empty properties faced stiff Empty House taxes and fines- a punitive Rich Tax that could send some of these speculators straight to Jail, do not pass go, do not collect 200 dollars.
Four actions, co ordinated on one day, by a united front of Auckland’s Unions, Community groups and progressive groups. A strong visual theme using the Monopoly iconography, with top hats, monocles, colours and props. A big huge boot outside John Key’s residence, for one.
It’s time to take to the streets, to demand
(1) the building of ten thousand new state houses a year
(2) Rent Control and increased Tenants Rights
(3) Healthy and Warm homes WOF
(4) Affordable homes linked to workers real wages.
(5) A Rich Tax on speculators and empty houses.
My union, Unite, voted to take action on Housing at our Conference this year. I believe that only unions, with mass working class membership reaching into thew communities affected, have the social weight and the organisational capacity to mobilise thousands of people on this issue so that we can win these demands for real. Who would like to see a Game of Auckland Monopoly kick off a of Housing Rebellion on the streets of Auckland involving thousands as Spring heats up into Summer?
Advance to Go!
Thursday, June 23, 2016
In the North of Ireland, myself and Mike Treen were present during the Assembly elections, which saw the election of two Marxist MLAs in the heartlands of the struggle- Derry and West Belfast. Zero hours are a plague on the working poor in both parts of Ireland- it was great to see the rise of a socialist alternative to the politics of Green and Orange win representation for a working class that feels communal politics has ignored their suffering.
All of these things have led me to think of what we can learn from these experiences here.
First off, people abroad were very happy that a fighting union like Unite has successfully unionised the fast food industry and won some tangible victories there- in the USA, the SEIU union has been fighting for $15 and a Union for several years now, but now wants formal union recognition in these industries. The defeat of Zero Hours also raises new answers to the academic theorists who argue there is a new class- the Precariat, who cannot be organised. So, in this respect, many of these countries think the example of Unite in NZ is one worth repeating abroad.
BUt when you are abroad, you can see the advantages that the Left has in these countries as well.
Even though I have some strong disagreements with the Corbyn/McDonnell leadership of Labour on issues like the reformabilty of the EU, there is no doubt that the program they have to revitalise the union movement and take the fight to the Tories both inside and outside of parliament, is one that every radical should get behind. Many people in New Zealand ask the question- where is our Jeremy Corbyn? With the recent announcement on maintaining 90 day trial periods, I struggle to think it is Andrew Little.
In Ireland, this went a stage further. The Irish Labour Party has been practically wiped out, after betraying the massive mandate it got from Irish workers to stop austerity- instead, it joined a right wing coalition government and introduced brutal taxes on working people, including a hated Water Tax, which saw a massive movement explode onto the streets. Hundreds of thousands of people marched, not only mobilised by radical groups such as People Before Profit, the Anti Austerity Alliance or Sinn Fein, but also by five large trade unions that broke from the Labour Party stranglehold on action, mobilising workers through union channels in huge numbers.
The rise of a new Left in Ireland was not an overnight occurence. Marxists made a turn away from propaganda group campus rhythyms after the Battle of Seattle, instead concentrating on community activity in working class areas. In many working class areas in Ireland’s major cities, the socialist left have been active fighting attacks on working people for decades- fighting for housing, rent control, refugee and gay rights, and against Household, Bin and Water taxes. The result has been the election of dozens of councillors, 6 AAA-PBP TDs, and another dozen or so radical left independent TDs, as well as a bigger group of 30 or so Sinn Fein TDs.
One of the reasons why the Left in Irleand concentrated on community politics, was, in my mind, that any radical route in the unions was blocked by the Labour Party bureaucracy and its ideology of partnership. Gino Kenny, TD for working class Clondalkin, describes himself as a Shop Steward for his area, which has suffered severe economic deprivation. He famously flew the Palestinian flag on his election, which shows also a deep internationalism in the Irish working class with the suffering of people abroad.
Here, in Aotearoa, with local elections coming up later this year, we start to see the same old faces and the same old tickets shuffle forward for the local boards. Interest in local and community politics is at an all time low, because very few of these tickets talk the language of the working class, or have taken a lead in the grassroots on issues like rent control and state housing. Groups like the Tamaki Housing Association in Glen Innes and the Save Our Community Coalition in Mangere have battled the effects of the housing crisis largely by themselves, with no serious support for what passes for a parliamentary Left.
Could something in the community to the left of the Labour-Greens alliance emerge from the current crisis- prehaps concentrating on a burning issue for working people like the Zero Hours Campaign began. A working title could be Housing Action or Rent Control Now? There are hundreds of activists to the left of both Labour and the Greens who could be organised by such a campaign- and we could force the issue onto the agenda.
IN the absence of a Bernie Sanders or a Jeremy Corbyn figure to pull establishment politics to the Left , that no saviour from on high delivers- maybe we do need to realise the truth of two Irish words- “Sinn Fein” -that change can only come from Ourselves Alone.
Joe Carolan SA
Thursday, June 16, 2016
The social welfare of today would be unrecognisable to those who witnessed the birth of what was known as the cradle to the grave. Sadly I was barely out of the cradle when the social welfare of old was consigned to the grave. In its place a welfare system that barely satisfies the loosest definition of the word. A welfare system that’s acts as a brutal tool of capitalist oppression rendering its very existence a contradiction of principle. Today work and Income works to perpetuate poverty encourage debt and intimidate the unemployed in to unsuitable employment.
Debt is a curse on the proletariat yet even work and income is in the business of putting low paid workers and the unemployed in to debt a situation that has become necessary as these people can no longer afford basic living costs that WINZ should be covering but for some reason is unable to. In recent years rent has spiralled beyond what the basic benefit can cover. This is compounded by the WINZ department’s unwillingness to provide any more than the bare minimum of support unless prompted to do so. For many the only course of action left is credit leaving them in debt that they will struggle to cover.
When at last you manage to get proper help from WINZ you find yourself with a very limited range of options. The first is temporary additional support this has to be reapplied for every three months and unless you happen to be in debt WINZ will not pay any significant amount. The second is an advance on the benefit a sort of interest free loan that can be provided for things like bond and temporary accommodation. In recent years this has resulted in people owing thousands of dollars to WINZ without having received any meaningful support.
A welfare system that is centred on debt is by definition rotten to the core. Instead of helping the poor and unemployed it serves to perpetuate poverty while providing only token support. Debt is a burden that is best avoided yet our modern welfare system is unable to offer any alternatives.
Sunday, June 05, 2016
Our biggest city is going through its worst housing crisis since the opening of the first state house in 1937. The dire situation in Auckland is now extending to other urban areas like Tauranga, as was recently reported in media. People are homeless, sleeping on streets, in tents, in cars - and where they do have a roof over their heads, as many as 10-15 can be sharing a three-bedroom home. The working middle-class cannot afford to buy houses as they’re now worth more than 10 times the average annual salary of over $76,000. The people of our country are suffering.
So what has caused this? There are a number of contributing factors but the biggest and most important is supply. We now have the lowest amount of social housing per population since 1949. The seeds were sown in the 80s, when the capitalist left (Labour Party) turned its back on the working class, passing its own economic version (Rogernomics) of what the right-wing politicians call neo-liberalism. These reforms paved the way for the capitalist right-wing (National Party) government of the 90s to get stuck into selling off and restricting the supply of social housing. The party was caught up in its usual “user pays/must be privatised for profit ” money addict ideology.
When the capitalist left came back into power in the late 90s, they didn’t really do anything substantial about the erosion of social housing quality and stock. So when the capitalist right returned to power in 2008, the attacks on social housing continued. This has effected a socio-economic cleansing of parts of our city so that land can be freed up for wealthy private development - forcing poor people to move further out of the city.
Making the housing crisis worse is the fact workers’ wages have remained stagnant and have not increased at the same rate as those of the CEOs they answer to. They’ve also not kept up with inflation and the cost of living. Many people now can’t even afford a private rental. Even rental on a room-to-let boarding situation is over 50% of a worker’s minimum wage.
The capitalist left has tried to make racist attacks on Chinese immigrants saying Chinese foreign speculators have driven up the pricing of private housing. While foreign speculation is definitely a contributing factor, it’s certainly not the largest - and it’s not just Chinese overseas speculators. The majority are baby boomer (born 1946 - 1964) Kiwis who bought their homes for $30-$40,000 in the 70s and 80s and whose properties are now worth over $1m. Clearly they’re just trying to deflect attention from the true cause of this crisis, and that is lack of supply from successive NZ governments. For the past 30 years our political rulers have been trying to keep the supply of housing down to increase demand and therefore drive up pricing for their own personal economic capital gains.
Housing shouldn’t even be something that you buy and invest in to make capital gains for profit. If you must invest your money then invest it somewhere else like green technology. Everyone should have a right to a clean, warm, dry home. If you cannot afford to buy your own house privately through the bank then there should at least be government assisted schemes such as a “rent-to-buy” so that people can pay what they can afford. The NZ government has access to the cheapest money in their beloved fake “free market”. There is no reason not to.
As socialists, where social housing is pretty much in our moral code, we will need to work harder to gain public awareness to the capitalist causes of this continuing crisis. We will need to network with our comrades and other organisations to rally against this atrocity. Whether it eventuates to the beginnings of our hoped for revolution or not, we should be at least demanding from the NZ government 100,000 homes be built immediately, rent control, social housing and strict regulations on making sure that every home is safe, warm, secure and dry. No one should ever be homeless. It’s called showing dignity for your own species.
Tuesday, April 26, 2016
In the past few days the Indian media in New Zealand has proudly reported that Pranab Mukherjee will be the first Indian President to visit this country. During his short visit from 30 April to 2 May the President will, among other events, address the students at Auckland University of Technology’s (AUT) Business School and meet with Indian business and community leaders.
What does the Indian President’s visit have in common with the title of this article?
The same media articles have also reported that 23000 Indian students studied in New Zealand last year alone. While it sounds very impressive for a country like New Zealand to educate and provide skills to international Indian students, we need to unravel the situation to uncover the actual facts.
The serial exploitation of Indian students begins long before they set foot on New Zealand soil. The process of course selection, education provider selection and visa applications is mostly conducted through agents in India. The legitimacy and competency of these agents is demonstrated by the shattered dreams of the victimised students. Neither is it a one-off case here and there, thousands have been made to lose hope. The typical scenario is that the agents in India convince their clients that they will be studying at world class institutions and will gain valuable qualifications. During this period they will easily find a job for up to 20 hours per week that will pay them well enough to live in New Zealand. On completion of their education the students will find a good job that will enable them to get permanent residence in a short time period.
The reality is that in most of the cases the students or their families have no or very little funds at the outset. Therefore the funds are generated through a combination of using up life savings, personal loans, bank loans, selling lifelines such as agricultural land etc. According to a 2015 survey, that year approximately 41% of Indian students in New Zealand carried a debt of $10,000 to $40,000 each. Repayment of this debt very quickly leads to a downward spiral of exploitation in most cases.
Most of the tertiary education providers that are recommended by the agents are legal entities but far from world-class education providers. Many are just a shop front for getting more bodies and cheap slave labour into the country. Some have even started holding ‘classes’ almost 24 hours a day so that they can fit around shifts of working students.
As for finding a well-paid 20-hour job during term time and a full-time job in the holidays, the state of the global economy means most countries are not able to provide their citizens/residents with decent employment to lead a reasonable life. In the current climate of economic downturn and with New Zealand’s unemployment rate hovering at around 6% for past 3 years, it is near impossible for freshly arrived, mostly inexperienced students to find jobs immediately. To add to their difficulties a lot of the Indian students know very little spoken English. This essential skill can only be achieved by living in New Zealand for a period of time and learning through observation and experience. As well as the language barrier, students are also faced with the culture barrier. If we do not allow ourselves time to observe and learn ways of a new family, new community, new country etc. we may end up behaving inappropriately and offend others. Time is also required to gain local knowledge about many important factors such as banking, the healthcare system, public transport use, finding accommodation, general shopping for day-to-day needs, finding amenities, employment rights, legal obligations of New Zealand residents, driving laws, etc. Time is something that debt ridden students do not have on their side. Their first instinct and need is to have an income source for survival in New Zealand and to send money back home for loan repayments. Very few are fortunate enough to be financially sound and therefore be able to solely focus on their education.
At present the legal minimum wage in New Zealand is $15.25 per hour and all adults (aged 18 years and over) regardless of their immigration status must be paid this rate. But in real terms the average pay rate of Indian temporary migrants (students and work visa holders) is about $13 per hour, a 2015 survey shows. Also reported in the survey and highlighted in New Zealand media recently was the case of an Indian restaurant chain that was paying its workers as little as $2 per hour. Indian students in New Zealand have been suffering in many ways: no pickup at the airport on first arrival, no reliable contacts, no written (or incorrectly drawn up) job contract, being underpaid - working more hours than paid for, not being paid on starting a new job under the guise of training, working without breaks and not being compensated for missed breaks, being paid in forms other than money e.g. meals for restaurant workers, working more than one job to earn enough, being forced to work back to back shifts without adequate rest breaks, being forced to perform duties not listed in their job contract, having to live in accommodation unfit for human habitation, suffering physical and mental abuse/torture, facing threats from employers, their employer not paying tax on their behalf, having their passport confiscated by the employer, employers making false promises of helping student employees to get work visa or permanent residence… The list goes on.
New Zealand law requires the employer to provide the employee with a written job contract. This document must at least detail the pay rate, duties/responsibilities of the job, hours of work, annual leave, sick leave and public holiday entitlement. The majority of these workers are never given a written contract. Of course the existence of a written contract does not guarantee that the worker will not be exploited, but it does act as a safeguard and makes the worker fully aware of their legal rights.
With a huge burden of debt, false hopes and very little practical and realistic information about New Zealand and its ways, the future of India arrives. Not many receive the education that they deserve. Then there is a large contingent that is using the student visa route to enter New Zealand legally, and whose ultimate goal is to stay in the country permanently or at least for years beyond their so called education. In most cases the dreams are not realised at all or it is too little too late. The biggest tragedy is that the victims themselves rarely realise that they are being mistreated or if they do realise they prefer to suffer in silence. The occasional student worker has raised their voice and achieved largely positive outcomes. However, the price paid is usually a big one; they are often labelled ‘trouble makers’, jeopardising their residency hopes and discouraging others from following suit.
So back to the original starting point of this article… the President’s visit. No doubt Pranab Mukherjee is visiting New Zealand to strengthen trade ties and that can only be a good thing for both countries. Why else would he be addressing the students of AUT business school? However, as President of India, his first and foremost duty should be securing the well-being and development of citizens of India (at home and overseas), which ultimately would lead to true progress of India as a country. During his visit, the least he could do is to meet and listen to the Indian international students, the most oppressed n New Zealand at this point in time. And yet he will be addressing the students of the AUT business school. Why is this misplaced? Let’s just look at the figures. The AUT website states that in 2014 the university had 2,660 international students.2 A Ministry of Education report states that in the same year, about 20,000 (out of a total of 84,000) students came to New Zealand from India, this being the second highest contributor to the international student market of New Zealand at 24% of the market share. So the President will be addressing at best 639 (24% of 2,660) Indian international business students at AUT.
In my 13 years in New Zealand I have yet to meet one Indian student, never mind 639, undertaking a business related qualification at one of the leading tertiary education institutes such as AUT. The debt-laden students can only afford the lesser quality colleges. The President must then be here to spot the business tycoons of tomorrow rather than ensure a happy and prosperous future for ordinary Indians, at home and overseas…….
1 Temporary Migration and Urban Incorporation in Auckland. Dr Francis L Collins, Geography, School of Environment, University of Auckland