Lawyer wants investigation into foreign workers’ wages

Tuesday April 19, 2016 Written by Published in Local

Lawyer and former politician Norman George has asked the Cook Islands Government to look into the latest round of complaints by foreign workers who claim they are being underpaid.


George says some workers have been forced to quit working for their contractors, alleging they were not paid well enough.

These workers, he said were unhappy with their take-home pay. George claimed the problem had been going on for quite some time, adding the government had done nothing to address the issue.

“This is not the first time visitors have had wage disputes with Cook Islands contractors,” George said.

“I can confirm that most of these workers are getting $3 an hour instead of $5 an hour.

“They are overworked, underpaid, not well fed or well housed.

“This is pure modern day slavery.” George said government needs to do its job properly to ensure foreigners are paid what they deserve.

 “I have helped many of these people and it is our duty to look after these workers.”

George said foreign workers had the same rights as the other employees in Cook Islands.

And he said it was “about time” government set up a permanent division to look after the welfare of foreign workers.

“There needs to be a permanent division that looks after this and I encourage leaders and the public not to stay silent, but to do something about this problem.”

Ministry of Internal Affairs secretary Bredina Drollet said the Labour Department would be able to comment on the issue tomorrow (Thursday).

“I will advise once I have reviewed (the matter),” Drollet said.

Article 40 of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) states that all human  beings,  irrespective  of  race,  creed  or  sex,  have  the  right  to economic security and equal opportunity.

Earlier this year CI News received allegations of foreign workers being forced to work long hours without a break, while receiving well under the minimum wage. The allegations centred around workers employed in the hospitality industry, with one informant claiming an employer had seized workers’ passports and was charging them well over the going rate for very basic accommodation.

The newspaper was also approached by an upset tourist, who said he had got to know some foreign workers during a holiday on the island and had been appalled at the conditions they worked and lived in.

In his CI News column late last year, George also raised questions over a particular employer, who he alleged had routinely treated foreign workers badly.

Editor’s note: For space reasons Norman George’s regular column will this week appear in Thursday’s edition of CI News.


1 comment

  • Comment Link Liner Watson Wednesday, 20 April 2016 15:53 posted by Liner Watson

    I totally agree with the comments I was on Rarotonga recently the staff were exceptional on their delivery of service above and beyond the call of duty.
    The staff were expected to cover all duties and their pay rate was Bismal no better than a3rd world country . I came away wondering g what could be done

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