KiwiRail says it takes the health and welfare of the visiting Chinese workers who are based in Wellington very seriously following allegations of an alleged exploitation of workers at Hutt Railway workshops, hired to repair asbestos-riddled DL locomotives.
Labour MP Trevor Mallard is calling for an investigation claiming a number of Chinese railway engineers dealing with the asbestos issue are being paid well below the minimum wage.
"The figure quoted to me was $3 per hour but I have also heard $US40 per day. That is exploitation and it is illegal," says Mr Mallard.
KiwiRail said there are 21 Chinese contractors in Wellington working for CNR, which is removing asbestos from the locomotives they supplied to KiwiRail under the warranty arrangement.
KiwiRail says the workers are provided regular meals, along with recreational activities, and hold meetings with each team every morning at which time is taken to discuss any issues and concerns they may have including working conditions and their accommodation.
KiwiRail Freight General Manager Iain Hill said any employment agreement is between the company and its own staff.
"We have not been privy to the wage arrangements CNR has with its employees and has reminded CNR of the need to comply with New Zealand employment law. KiwiRail would work with the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment as necessary" he said.
In a statement the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment said it has received information concerning this matter and is conducting enquires to establish the employment status and employment conditions relating to these workers.
The MBIE spokesperson said this includes ascertaining whether there have been any breaches of minimum employment standards.
Requests through Mr Mallard to speak with the Chinese workers were declined because "they won't speak for fear of being targeted".