Some of the abuses foreign workers suffer

Wednesday July 05, 2017 Published in Letters to the Editor

Increasingly foreign workers in the Cook Islands are becoming the backbone of our economy and increasingly they are not being given the respect and protection from a lot of unscrupulous Cook Islanders. As a worker they have rights as an employee enshrined in Cook Islands employment legislation.


Here are some of the horror stories of foreign workers:

• Being threatened with violence and abuse

• Being significantly underpaid or not paid properly or no benefits provided such as TOIL for working public holidays as required by law

• Employers trying to diddle them out of their worker rights, or employers not understanding workers’ rights

• Having their passport confiscated or withheld without proper justification

• Work permits not paid by their employer

• Money being deducted without their permission or for proper lawful cause

• Employers getting them in-country and wanting them to reimburse the flights, accommodation and anything else that helps them recuperate their capital outlay

• Being over worked and being promised work and then being forced to do other work they have not agreed to

• Being sexually and verbally harassed

• Contracts not being honoured, or contracts with unlawful requirements, or no contracts at all

• No job description and being treated as no better than a slave

• Double standards being followed with one law for local workers and another for foreign workers

• Employer’s gentleman’s agreement not worth the paper it’s written on, or not worth the words coming out of their mouths

• Arriving in-country to find their new employer has blatantly lied to them

• No proper induction, no proper safety training and no proper orientation into the job

• Ambushing them with rules and policies that they have not sighted, or signed off on

•  Forcing them to work from sun up to sun down for poor wages

• Employers not following proper processes

• Visiting the place where they live and getting one of their family or mates to intimidate them

•  Violation of their employment rights to be properly briefed and represented

• Being set upon by their employer’s lawyers to bully them into submitting to their will

•           Not understanding what their rights are

• Being given misinformation from their employer to catch them out

• Being forced to leave their job because they can’t afford, or haven’t been given the right to properly defend themselves

• Being threatened with repatriation to their country of origin with no proper process followed and being threatened with their work permit being revoked by Immigration.

This is not a Third World country we are talking about, this is happening right here and right now in our corner of the world in our patch of paradise called the Cook Islands, foreign workers who are not being treated properly by Cook Islanders.

We are a small nation so we know who is not treating their foreign workers properly.

We socialise with them, drink with them and eat with them.

But the rub is that some of them treat their foreign workers like slaves and think nothing of it, or are ignorant of - or don’t want to know - what effect their poor decision making is having on their foreign workers.

These Cook Islanders go to church and call themselves Christians, but really they are no better than hypocrites, shame on you.


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