Wellington Scoop

Rail workers’ union going to court on status of Chinese workers at Hutt rail yards

News from Rail and Maritime Transport Union
The RMTU is heading to the Employment Relations Authority to determine whether Chinese engineers, who are removing asbestos from KiwiRail locomotives at KiwiRail’s Hutt yards and elsewhere, are covered under New Zealand employment law, announces RMTU General Secretary Wayne Butson.

After the allegations of exploitation emerged, a Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment investigation concluded that New Zealand law probably doesn’t apply to the engineers. The government was content with the legal uncertainty.

“If our law doesn’t apply to foreign workers carrying out work on New Zealand soil, what’s stopping other companies from replacing their local workers with cheap labour from overseas,” asks Butson.

“If the government had taken a long term view and invested in local locomotive workshops like Hillside in Dunedin then we wouldn’t be in this mess.”

“This is work that should have been done by New Zealand workers to a New Zealand standard. Instead the government decided on a procurement strategy that favours foreign suppliers who, it turns out, delivered locomotives containing asbestos,” says Butson.

“The government needs to revisit its ideological preference for foreign suppliers. The Chinese locomotive debacle proves that New Zealanders can do the work cheaper and to a better standard.”

What: Application for removal to the Employment Court (KiwiRail is the respondent)
Where: ERA, 50 Customhouse Quay, Wellington
When: 27 August 2015, 10am.

June: Court decision made
April: $3 an hour at Hutt workshops?