The plan requires workers to sign a privacy waiver, allowing the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Immigration to access their tax and super records.
The move is intended to stop dodgy employers deducting workers tax and super, then just pocketing the money.
This change has been welcomed by some. Angelyse Heitiare-Armstrong applauded the change. “Employers would only oppose it if they’re hiding something,” she said. “Awesome move and it’s supported by the Filipino community.”
But others warned it was a breach of the workers’ privacy.
Chamber of Commerce president Fletcher Melvin said: “Although we agree in principle that employees need to be protected from unscrupulous employers, we also recognise that requiring permission from employees to use an individual’s private information before they enter the country is something that could infringe upon their privacy.”
Melvin said Immigration hac the role of approving work permits, and a limited role of ensuring the person it is issued too is working within the bounds of that permit.
It seems that treating foreign workers differently at the border for these matters is working outside of their mandates, said Melvin.
“What seems to be suggested here is that through a policy, immigration become the clearing house for policing tax and super matters as they relate to foreign workers. This certainly differentiates the role from how local workers are managed.”
Melvin said genuine cases of illegal deductions should be investigated on a case by case basis and non-compliant employers should be brought to task and made to compensate the employees.
Melvin assumed that the Chamber would be told about the policy change by the National Labour Advisory Board participation and there would be a discussion but this had not taken place.
The National Labour Advisory Board is made up of representatives of government, workers and employers.
Melvin said this would have been the appropriate and most constructive forum to discuss changes to foreign worker permits.
“We should be consulting with each other on these matters especially when it impinges on individual rights and furthermore the rights of the worker are enshrined in the International Labour Organisation convention for which we are signatories,” said Melvin.
He said there should be a clear separation of powers so jurisdictions of government agencies are not blurred.