PHL Ambassador meets with immigration and labour officials in ChristChurch, New Zealand
As the Philippine Embassy continues to engage and collaborate closely with relevant authorities in New Zealand, Ambassador Virginia H. Benavidez accompanied by Third Secretary and Vice Consul Glenn Joseph Obach, met with Immigration New Zealand (INZ) and Labour Inspectorate officials in Christchurch on 14 February 2014. Present at the meeting were Ms. Janine Parsons, INZ Area Manager, Mr. Steve Jones, INZ Assistant Area Manager, Mr. Craig Walsh, INZ Regional Relationship Manager, Ms. Sue Jackson, INZ Immigration Manager, Ms. Faye-Maree Francis, INZ Business Relationship Advisor, and Mr. Steve Watson, Regional Manager Southern Labour Inspectorate. Ambassador Benavidez led the Embassy’s Mobile Consular Team to Christchurch on 13-17 February 2014 and took the opportunity to network with New Zealand’s Immigration and Labour Inspectorate authorities to discuss and exchange information on the situation and status of Filipino workers especially those employed in the rebuild and reconstruction, health care, dairy and other sectors in Christchurch and Canterbury region.
Ms. Parsons welcomed Ambassador Benavidez and together with the other INZ and Labour Inspectorate officials shared and exchanged views on major developments in New Zealand’s visa application centres and the updates on possible arrangements being worked out between New Zealand’s and Philippines’ labour officials for country specific provisions for the recruitment and deployment of Filipino skilled workers to New Zealand and responsive to the skilled manpower needs of New Zealand and at the same time consistent with core employment policies and practices of both countries. Ambassador Benavidez updated the INZ and Labour Inspectorate officials on the simultaneous launch of the Philippines-New Zealand Working Holiday Scheme (WHS) on 5 February 2014 and the keen interest and quick response from the Filipinos to participate in the programme. The Philippine Embassy in Wellington is looking forward to processing applications from New Zealanders as the WHS would lead to greater people connectivity and goodwill. Subsequent discussions focused on the changing employment landscape in the region with the increasing influx of Filipino workers involved in the Christchurch rebuild and reconstruction especially in the housing, horizontal, vertical and underground sectors, steps being undertaken by relevant authorities in New Zealand and the Philippines to address concerns and resolve problems related to the employment, visa status, workers’ rights, payment of wages, compliance with provisions of employment contracts, pastoral and other needs of migrant workers as well as those involving employers and their treatment of workers and recruitment and related issues. INZ and Labour Inspectorate officials stressed the crucial importance of immediate and close coordination, contact and meeting with them to discuss and resolve problems and concerns of the Filipino workers. Information materials and guide books on working in New Zealand and workers’ rights in the construction industry in Filipino and English languages versions are being disseminated by INZ. Ambassador Benavidez thanked the INZ and Labour Inspectorate officials for their invaluable assistance and continuing cooperation and their accessibility and readiness to provide valuable information, advice, help and support in addressing and settling problems arising from the work and stay of Filipinos here. She also said that “the Philippine Embassy’s continuing active engagement with the relevant agencies and authorities in New Zealand is vital to the collective efforts of both countries to ensure the welfare and well-being of Filipinos staying and working in New Zealand.”