Skilled Kiwis Should Get Jobs—Key

Skilled Kiwis should get jobs – Key
Last updated 11:19 24/03/2009

While the skilled migrant quota helps the economy, migrants should not get jobs at the expense of local workers, Prime Minister John Key says.

The Government and union officials are investigating allegations a New Plymouth factory made full-time workers redundant while keeping on migrant workers hired under the skilled migrant category.

Immigration Minister Jonathan Coleman has indicated that Immigration New Zealand may have not been given correct information when it permitted the company to let the migrant workers undertake other duties.

Labour leader Phil Goff said it was unacceptable for a local worker to be laid off if they could do the job.

“Preference must always be given to the permanent resident or citizen. . .the temporary work visa is actually about where you cannot find a New Zealander to do the job,” Mr Goff said.

“Patently that is not the case in this instance.”

The Taranaki Daily News yesterday reported 28 workers at MCK Metals Pacific Ltd at Bell Block were made redundant last October while Filipino welders on temporary work permits kept their jobs.

MCK Metals chief executive Pramod Khatri said nine workers from the Philippines were hired in October 2007 to do specialised aluminium welding and polishing when the firm was unable to get skilled New Zealand workers to fill the vacancies.

New Plymouth man Stephen Bovett has taken his case to the Engineering Printing and Manufacturing Union, Immigration NZ and Dr Coleman 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, not Kiwis, he said.

Mr Key recently defended the skilled migrant quota when Australia announced cuts to preserve jobs for its own people.

He said today New Zealand still suffered skills shortages and there were no major changes planned to the quota, which is to have its next annual review in June.

In contrast Dr Coleman said the Government would control labour demands during the recession through the visa system, and that could mean limits on temporary work visas.

Mr Key said Dr Coleman and the department were looking into the MCK case.

“My understanding is that they (the migrant workers) had specific welding skills for which there was a shortage existing in New Zealand.”

He said it was very important to him to keep New Zealanders in work.

“If New Zealanders have those skills, they are unemployed and therefore can take up those jobs, that's the most obvious port of call.”

Dr Coleman told Radio New Zealand this morning that if Immigration NZ knew at the time it allowed the migrant staff to move to other duties that the company was looking at making other workers redundant, the change would not have been allowed.

He said the authority issued the `variation of conditions' permits in October.

He said Immigration's report raised questions and he was seeking further answers from officials.

EPMU national secretary Andrew Little was also seeking more information.

“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 why 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.