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Retrenched OFWs in New Zealand sleep in cars, resort to fishing to survive

It’s been nearly a month since hundreds of Filipino construction workers lost their jobs throughout New Zealand and some are forced into desperate measures to survive.

Migrante Aotearoa said many laid-off workers have resorted to fly fishing for something to eat after about 720 fellow Filipinos suddenly lost their jobs when their recruitment company ELE Group collapsed last December 20.

“Yes, many are already doing that,” Migrante Aotearoa confirmed to Kodao.



First Union Network of Migrants general secretary Dennis Maga said that one month after ELE entered receivership, the distressed Filipino workers are already in dire financial hardship.

“[M]any are relying on community food support and waiting for financial assistance from the Philippine Embassy. Two weeks ago, the union reported that some workers were sleeping in their cars due to financial difficulties,” Maga said.

Bills and debts both in NZ and the Philippines, mental and emotional stresses are mounting for the ELE workers, Maga added.

Distress call to NZ and PH governments

Along with Migrante Aotearoa and First Union, several of the workers held a picket at the Philippine Embassy as well as outside ELE Group caretaker Deloitte Corporation in Wellington today.

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The groups also held meet-ups with other laid-off workers in Auckland and Christchurch on Friday.

In a statement, the groups said they are asking Deloitte to give the laid-off workers’ final pay and benefits before the month’s end.

They demanded as well that the workers be given work immediately and given new work visas by the New Zealand government.

They also asked the Philippine government to expedite its promised financial aid to the workers while they remain jobless.  

“For the NZ government, we reiterate that it’s high time to investigate the practices of labor hire operators that disadvantage and exploit migrant workers,” Migrante Aotearoa said.

The group added that even before ELE’s collapse, they had been receiving reports of employment redundancy, exploitation of migrant workers, visa scams, and fake job offers.

“We reiterate calls for the Philippine government through the Philippine Embassy in Wellington and the Department of Migrant Workers in Manila to fast-track the release of financial aid for all ELE workers and give high priority to ELE workers currently in the Philippines to avail OWWA assistance and waive the required application for new Overseas Employment Certificate to be able to return to NZ without further costs and delay,” they said.

In a separate statement, Migrante-International called on the Ferdinand Marcos Jr. government to speed up and increase support for the laid-off workers.

The group is set to hold a dialogue with the Department of Migrant Workers on Monday, January 22 about the plight of the Filipino workers in New Zealand.

“The sudden retrenchment of our kababayans in New Zealand again exposes the folly of the Philippine government’s labor export program. The Philippine government has the responsibility to create decent jobs at home, which is possible only through land reform and national industrialization,” Migrante International said.

This article was first published by KODAO Productions

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