More and more temporary workers, who have been in New Zealand for many years on different visas are being left out unsupported from either government's wage subsidy scheme or other welfare schemes during the Alert Level 4 Lockdown.
While most of the New Zealanders continue to receive the support announced so generously by the government, a vast majority of temporary migrant workers are being left out, and more so - without any clear information of where to seek the help that they are seeking.
The Indian Weekender has been in touch with several desperate temporary workers who have been present in the country for many years on different work visas and paying their taxes but fail to neatly qualify under the eligibility criteria for the government's wage subsidy scheme.
The government's multi-layered welfare schemes are not covering temporary migrant workers during these unsettling times.
Rujul Ramabhai Chaudhari, 25, who first arrived in New Zealand in 2015 on a student visa and getting an open work visa in 2017 told The Indian Weekender how he was struggling to find financial support after the country went into a complete lockdown that froze all work opportunities.
Rujul says "this is not fair." I have been working for almost the entire period of my stay in New Zealand on work visas and paying my taxes."
"It was just that I was out of a job for one week while waiting for the change of visa label from Immigration New Zealand to be able to start my new job when we went into lockdown."
"Now technically I am without any job and any employer to apply and get the wage subsidy for me."
"I have got a sitting job offer but cannot start without getting my visa label changed from INZ," a desperate Rujul told The Indian Weekender.
Rujul was working as a Class-2 level Truck Driver when made redundant on March 16, and given only a week's notice, with March 23 as the last working day, by his employer as per his contract.
However, regardless of the redundancy, based on his skills and demonstrable work experience, Rujul was able to find a job with another employer and had rightly applied for Variance of Condition with Immigration New Zealand so as to change the name of the employer on his visa label.
Rujul was waiting at home to get his visa-label changed when the country entered into complete lockdown on Wednesday, 11.59 pm March 26.
Finance Minister Grant Robertson had announced a wage subsidy scheme first on March 23 and subsequently modified further on March 28, cushioning workers and businesses to deal with the economic fallout of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Sadly, Rujul does not qualify for the wage subsidy scheme as only employers can apply and get this from the government, and Rujul was caught-up without any job for the only time of the last five years of his working life.
Expectant couple struggles to find financial support
Similarly, another Kiwi-Indian couple Suhail Zaidi and Shadma who were on Essential Skills Work Visa and are expecting their first child in May 2020 are running from post to post to get financial support during these unsettling times after Suhail was made redundant by his Australia-based employer.
"I was made redundant on March 25, and as per the contract, the company does not have any redundancy payout. I have been paid my wages for March and was advised that April 7 will be my last day."
"Since then I have been trying to find out ways and means to get any financial support to help our growing family through this lockdown period," Suhel said.
Another desperate temporary migrant working couple seeking help
Another Kiwi-Indian couple Harvinder Singh Mehrok and Gurbinder Kaur Saini, who were waiting for a change of visa labels from Immigration New Zealand to be able to start their new jobs are struggling to find any financial support or information during the lockdown period.
"We both came to New Zealand on student visas about four-five years ago and have been on work visas since then."
"My wife works as a senior caregiver and had applied for a change of visa in early March this year to able to start her new job," Harnok said.
"I became redundant from my previous job in February when I was away overseas on approved holidays."
"I came back and applied for a new job and got it and had applied for the same change of visa label on March 2."
"We are not sure if Immigration New Zealand (INZ) is working or not during this lockdown, but right now we have become jobless with no financial support," Harvinder told the Indian Weekender.
"Now we are almost out of our savings as well and really worried about what to do," a worried Harviaed said.
Calls to Work and Income not getting help
While all other New Zealanders who do not qualify for the government's wage subsidy scheme are still able to get some form of welfare support during these times of complete lockdown.
However, unfortunately, Rujul and Suhel do not qualify, and their repeated, desperate phone calls to Work and Income have been politely refused for the lack of eligibility to receive any support.
Speaking to The Indian Weekender Suhel said "I have been on the phone to various government agencies since the news of the company winding up operations was made available to me. I have spoken to the Covid-19 relief helpline who put me on to the Ministry of Social Development. I heard back from them that a case officer from Work and Income will be assigned my case and will look into the matter to help me with the situation."
"I was later contacted by a case officer from WINZ, who advised me that I do not qualify for the COVID-19 wage relief as I am not a resident."
"I have since been advised to speak to IRD, MBIE, Immigration NZ, but all in vain," said a visibly anxious Suhel.
A clearly exasperated Rujul, on the other hand, asks, "Everyone is saying that we all are in this together."
"How is this together? We are being left out for no fault of ours," Rujul asks frustratingly.
The Indian Weekender has received many desperate calls from people in Auckland, Christchurch, Wellington and beyond, who shied away from sharing their photos or names for the story for fear of any vendetta later by government agencies.
However, they have the same frustrations about the lack of information on any support for temporary workers during these critical times.
What does the government say?
The Indian Weekender has been following up with various government offices and Ministries to find any "nodal agency" that the government might have created to coordinate all help for temporary workers during the Covid-19 lockdown.
Last week, the office of the Minister of Ethnic Communities Jenny Salesa had followed up The Indian Weekender's enquiry with the Ministry of Social Development and got a response, which cleared that all help, if any, for the temporary migrants was not being extended by MSD, but rather the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment.
The Indian Weekender has subsequently reported, advising the Kiwi-Indian and the wider migrant community to direct their enquiries for request directly to the office of the MBIE as per the last communication received from the MSD.
However, The Indian Weekender has learnt that temporary migrant workers seeking help directly from MBIE have not been successful either.
Since then The Indian Weekender had sent another enquiry to the office of the MBIE requesting clear information for temporary migrant workers who are caught up in the cracks and being left unsupported during these critical times, and a response is awaited.