A RELUCTANTANCE TO TALK
New Zealanders with family and friends living and working abroad will be familiar with the Kiwi Diaspora but the Philippines takes emigration to a new level. The tide of emigration shows no sign of slowing and the Christchurch rebuild is just one destination, although an increasingly popular one.
Between July last year and February this year 280 Filipino workers applied for work visas to participate specifically in the Christchurch rebuild and it appears that many more have come to South Island’s Canterbury and other regions, with 1,090 receiving work visas in the 2011-12 financial year and 912 receiving approval in the period from July to February.
While there is as yet no comprehensive official data that’s available on what skilled Filipino workers end up doing, many carpenters, hammer hands, painters and welders have found work in the reconstruction effort. The downside for some is some higher-level qualified Filipino engineers and quantity surveyors work as labourers because their qualifications are not recognised in New Zealand.
It’s difficult to know exactly how well Canterbury employers are treating Filipino workers, who are notoriously reluctant to talk to the media in case they jeopardise their jobs and their chances of becoming permanent residents. Yet inquiries reveal much darker side arising from the recruitment process which result in skilled Filipino workers often arriving in New Zealand heavily in debt and in need to work immediately to pay back family, friends and loan sharks.
THE NEW MILKING COW
Upfront fees are regarded as part of the migrant culture. But most recruits from the Philippines appear to hold a mistaken notion that they have to pay a whole bundle of recruitment, im migration and other ‘processing’ fees to secure jobs in places like New Zealand. The most often mentioned figure is NZ $10,000 but that sums can go up even higher. These don’t even inc lude the cost of airfare to get to their destina tions.
While New Zealand is world famous for its high quality milk and dairy products, some get-rich-quick minded unlicensed operators on both ends of the recruitment game who collude with each appear to have found with some sinister delight another lucrative ‘milking cow’ in the guise of unsuspecting and uninformed recruits.
One of our sources relates they interviewed four Filipino workers who arrived in Christ church some six months ago to take up jobs organised by such unscru pulous operators. One had been charged NZ $8,500 and the other three had paid over NZ $10,000 just to work in Christchurch.
It’s an outrage and scandalous to hear about these things. The cost of ignorance is steep but knowledge is power.
To begin with, what many Filipinos in the Philippines seeking employment opportunities in New Zealand don’t know too much about is that the industry-based level of fees which professional licensed recruiters and immigration advisers normally charge are:
For recruitment service, processing and documentation fee, if an employee-candidate falls under occupation categories like executive, managerial, professional and other highly technical positions such as HR Manager, Plant Manager, Project Manager, Site Manager, Engineer, Surveyor, Architect, etc. – the average service fee would be the equivalent of only one (1) month basic salary, all payable by an employer who contracts such service.
On the other hand, if an employee-candidate falls under occupation catego ries for skilled and semi-skilled positions such as carpenter, electrician, fabricator welder, foeman, etc., the level of fees would normally range between NZ$ 1,500 to NZS 1,800 per recruit, all payable by an employer who contracts the service.
When recruiting professional grade employees and skilled workers from overseas, part of the end-to-end work processes which licensed recruiters provide include coordinating testing to verify skills of individual candidates for international-standard assessments, assist in selection and visa pro cessing of final candidates and advise in facilitating pre-departure work place safety inductions and cultural awareness training group sessions to ensure that employer selected candidates are successfully prepped and mobilised for departure to their overseas work assignments.
For immigration advisory service, licensed professionals who are accre dited with New Zealand’s Immigration Advisers Authority (IAA) offer their services where the level of fees would range between NZ$ 1,500 to NZS 1,800 per recruit, all payable by an employer who contracts such service.
In New Zealand, IAA-accredited lead immigration advisors and their staff provide advice and visa processing for migrants to New Zealand. They also assist local business owners and organisations process applications for worker-related visas for employers as well.
TRUTH OF THE MATTER IS
The Philippines government manages the migra tion of Filipino workers through the Philippines Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) which issues each worker migrant with an Over seas Employment Certificate. The Administra tion also regulates immigration agents in the Philippines, of which there are thousands, both legal and illegal. So if you are one planning to come to New Zealand for work the truth of the matter is this: do own your homework, com pare your sources of information, don’t be in a hurry, make choices wisely and read every thing that you sign carefully.
To meet the growing demand for highly-skilled employees in some industries, many businesses in New Zealand are now looking overseas to find people they need. For the Christchurch rebuild effort in particular, there now is a growing preference by employers to hire skilled Filipino professionals and construction-related workers because without them, servicing existing contracts and new projects are at peril due to shortages of skilled labour.
Many of them have tried to lodge their own employer-nominated applications directly with the Immigration New Zealand (INS). But, without proper immigra tion advice and guidance these efforts often results in rejection due to in experience.
Immigration specialists in New Zealand who have tie-ups with recruiters some times work in tandem to provide a whole range of end-to-end services that ensures Kiwi businesses meet their sponsorship and compliance obligations. This starts by identifying worker candidates with the right skill sets and experience and the right type of visas and sponsorship agreements to suit business needs.
Then, they go further by preparing and lodging applications; managing the spon sorship agreement process end-to-end, and assisting overseas-based personnel gain their entry visas. They also coordinate with Immigration New Zealand (INS) Service’s monitoring requirements so that businesses can feel confident that they are getting the right people they actually need at the right time in a proper and legal way.
IT GETS BAD AND UGLY
There’s are always a few bad apples in the basket as the saying goes and when it comes to choosing employers in New Zealand it pays to be well-informed and connected to more ex perienced kababayans who’ve been around longer.
Take the case of Rowel de la Costa (not his real name) who recently worked for a small Christ church building company which expected him to walk some 60-minutes just so he could get a lift with the company’s owner at a specified 6.15am pick-up point.
His contract said something clear about his wage but the employer paid him the minimum wage instead of the agreed upon NZ $18/hour. On top of that, Rowel was charged NZ $30/week for transport ‘fees’. During autumn and winter months it rains and snows pretty much in New Zealand but no weather gear was provided by his employer in the work place. Rowel says he was so exhausted after working 60-hours in his first month of employ that he had no other choice but quit or get seriously ill. Now that’s bad! Fortunately, he has since found other work in Christchurch from a more humane employer.
Most of the complaints that do get voiced by Filipinos working in Christchurch are mostly related to small and undercapitalised Kiwi construction companies reneging on agreed rates of pay and providing sub-standard working conditions that do not satisfy health and safety government regulations. These skilled migrant tradesmen who’ve been brought in to rebuild Christchurch’s devastated landscape were surprised they even had to buy their own tools, were not accommodated properly and lack of good public transport to where they needed to get their work done. Now that’s really ugly.
“These are the kind of people who are skilled tradesmen, engineers, nurses, IT professionals, and now dairy workers as well and they have a good reputation,” says Reuben Levermore. New Zealand’s ambassador to the Philip pines.
NOW THAT’S REALLY GOOD!
Then, there are the good apples too.
Take the case of a leading Christchurch cons truction company (name withheld for privacy reasons) which already employs a contingent of 50 Filipino carpenters and who is in the pro cess of recruiting even more skilled trades men from the Philippines once the reconstruction programme of government starts to accelerate at a much faster pace by mid-2013.
The company’s founder and managing director says his experience with the Filipino workers his company has recruited is “fantastic” but he is also careful who he brings in whether they come from the Philippines or elsewhere. “You don’t want to believe everything you read on the CVs,” he says.
This company enjoys a reputation for completing complex and challenging projects to the highest industry standards, safely, on time and within budget even under the most extreme environmental and operating conditions. The company also happens to be a Kiwi employer which for its overseas workforce requirements does not involve either a New Zealand recruitment agency or immigration consultant. Rather, they have developed a highly comprehensive process designed in-house to ensure those chosen have the necessary quali fications, the right level of skills, can speak English well, and are the right fit for its business.
Theirs was the first major construction company in Christchurch to engage qualified Filipino carpenters and paid all recruitment-related costs and their airfares to New Zealand. The Filipinos were not charged, including those costs borne by candidates in the Philippines or due to relocation. Accommodations is provided upon landing in Christchurch, but are charged a reasonable rent rate that employees can well afford. The Filipino recruits are on two-year work contracts, and are employed and paid on exactly the same terms and rates as New Zealand workers. Now that’s really good!
We close this piece by reminding all migrant Filipinos anywhere around the world not to forget what Jose Rizal – the Philippines’ polymath and polyglot national hero, wrote in his novel ‘Noli Me Tangere’, that: “there can be no tyrants where there are no slaves”.
What that simply means is that tyrants in any form or shape won’t exist unless people let them.