Factory Accused of Favouring Migrants

New Zealand Press Association, March 24, 2009

The Government and union officials are investigating allegations that a New Plymouth factory made fulltime workers redundant while keeping on migrant workers.

Twenty-eight workers at MCK Metals Pacific Ltd at Bell Block were made redundant in October last year but Filipino welders, who were brought in on temporary work permits in late 2007, retained their jobs, the Taranaki Daily News reported yesterday.

New Plymouth man Stephen Bovett has taken his case to the Engineering Printing and Manufacturing Union, Immigration NZ and the Immigration Minister after he was also made redundant two weeks before Christmas.

“I am furious about this. I have a mortgage and two young children. MCK has taken jobs off local Taranaki people while keeping migrants on,” Mr Bovett said.

When the jobs went, the Filipinos were the ones that should have been sent home, he said.

MCK Metals chief executive Pramod Khatri confirmed the company employed nine workers from the Philippines in October 2007 under the work skills shortage policy to undertake specialised aluminium welding and polishing when the firm was unable to get skilled New Zealand workers.

The company had no policy to retain New Zealand workers over migrant workers, he said.

“Our key focus is to ensure that we have a viable business providing employment opportunities, job security and sharing of rewards.”

EPMU national secretary Andrew Little confirmed he was investigating on behalf of the union. “We are asking the question why the migrant workers on short-term visas appear to have been given priority over long-term workers able to give a long-term commitment to the company who have been made redundant.”

If the union was dissatisfied at the selection criteria the employer had used and the reasons they had retained short-term as opposed to long-term workers on a permanent basis, the issue could be taken either to mediation or to a hearing, Mr Little said.

Immigration Minister Dr Jonathan Coleman said he had asked his ministry to investigate the allegations, saying immigration policy was designed so migrants on short-term permits did not take jobs from New Zealanders. If the company had breached immigration policy, action would be taken, Dr Coleman said.

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