'They're being exploited' - Outrage at jobs being advertised on website for below minimum wage

A website is advertising jobs for backpackers and temporary visitors at below the minimum wage, in a market that's being described as the "wild west".

The Backpacker Board website currently has around 600 jobs on offer, but a workers' advocate has taken some to task for advertising roles at below $16.50 per hour.

Welfare advocate Chloe Ann-King has publicly shamed employers on social media taking screenshots of ads that pay below the minimum wage - including in farming and dairy - and encouraging people to call them up and complain.

Ms King said the job market was like the wild west.

"They're being exploited and when you talk to them, they know something is wrong, but because of lack of knowledge and oversight they don't know what to do," she said.

Ms King said in some cases the employers didn't know the minimum wage had gone up.

"So once again I find that incredibly hard to believe because the governmental annual increase goes up at exactly the same time every single year," she said.

Federated Farmers vice-president Andrew Hoggard calls it a no-brainer and said farmers needed to be acting within the law.

"You know I would have thought people would know what the minimum standard - particularly what the minimum wage is ... it's not exactly like it hasn't been in the news," he said.

Mr Hoggard said entry level farm workers were usually earning around $18 an hour and there was no excuse for paying less.

He said if farmers were in doubt, there was a lot of support available from his organisation or DairyNZ.

"Nowadays we've got bloody good wage keeping tools that make the job so much simpler doing everything right," he said.

One farmer offering below the minimum wage told RNZ he was more interested in making sure the worker was fed and had a roof over their head.

Workplace Relations Minister Iain Lees-Galloway was unavailable to be interviewed, but a spokesperson said he was getting advice from the Labour Inspectorate about the advertisments.

The website has not responded to Radio New Zealand's requests for comment.

- By Jonathan Mitchell

A screenshot from the Backpacker Board website
A screenshot from the Backpacker Board website. Source: rnz.co.nz



New rules rolled out to stop dirty vessels entering NZ waters

New rules to halt the admission of dirty vessels into New Zealand waters are being rolled out by the Government to "better protect New Zealand's unique marine environment and other vital industries from biosecurity risk". 

Minister of Biosecurity Damien O’Connor said today in a statement the arrival of about 90 per cent of non-indigenous marine species in Kiwi waters, like the Mediterranean fanworm, Japanese kelp and Australian droplet tunicate, came to New Zealand via international vessels. 

"These incursions harm our aquaculture industries, fisheries and native marine ecosystems," Mr O'Connor said. 

The new rules, which were rolled out yesterday, mean that vessel operators need to prove they have taken steps to ensure a clean hull, with divers carrying out inspections of the hulls. 

"Biosecurity New Zealand officers will take a hard line on vessels that can't provide evidence they meet the rules. 

"Officers will also have the power to direct vessels for cleaning and order the vessel to leave New Zealand if the fouling is severe," he said. 

"Vessel operators will meet the costs of any compliance order. The shipping industry has had four years to prepare for the changes and ignorance of the new requirements will not be accepted."

Container ship

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Many NZ air traffic controllers performing roles without certainty of toilet breaks, union tells Select Committee

Many air traffic controllers (ATCs) in New Zealand are completing shifts without the certainty of a regular toilet break, the union representing them has told the Education and Workforce Select Committee today.

The New Zealand Air Line Pilots' Association (NZALPA) represents nearly every air traffic controller in the country and said changes to the proposed Employment Relations Amendment Bill (ERA Bill) were "safety-critical" to allow air traffic control staff a break, the Select Committee has heard.

The NZALPA said proposed legislation could require air traffic controllers to work without any breaks for up to 9.5 hours.

NZALPA President and international airline pilot Tim Robinson said that air traffic is widely recognised as one of the most stressful occupations in the world with the highest need for mental alertness and restricting the ability for air traffic controllers from having "normal" breaks like other workers is irresponsible and unsafe.

He said the lack of breaks could lead to a serious incident or accident.

"Many ATCs, particularly those based at regional airports, are often solo controllers working the shift by themselves. This means that they have the sole duty to ensure that the aerodrome and surrounding airspace remains safe," Mr Robinson said. 

"While many of these regional airports would seem to have relatively low levels of aircraft movement, ATC's must maintain continuous visual watch throughout the duration of their shift, and often have to respond to unexpected and sometimes urgent situations involving the safety of aircraft."

The proposed ERA Bill excludes those employed in "essential service", including air traffic controllers, from mandatory meal and rest breaks.

The proposed ERA Bill reflects the wording of the current legislation, NZALPA is calling for it to be amended to allow ATCs the same meal and rest breaks as other workers.

NZAPLPA pressed the Select Committee to consider the safety impacts of excluding air traffic controllers from mandatory breaks.

"In many comparable jurisdictions such as Canada, every control tower is routinely staffed by more than one person.  In many countries in the European Union it is a legal requirement to have more than one person on duty following fatal accidents in the past."

"Does New Zealand have to wait for a major accident to occur in order to highlight the need for proper rest and meal breaks to be legislated?" Mr Robinson asked.  

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