Information regarding recent media stories

As at 31 January 2019

About NPL

  • NPL provides construction workers to construction firms on a project by project basis throughout New Zealand. NPL is a New Zealand owned and operated business that has been operating for over 25 years.
  • NPL leases a large farmhouse which includes sleeping quarters and offices in Takanini. The accommodation is intended to be a transitional facility, and we provide temporary accommodation for workers for one to two weeks. It is used for overseas workers, relocation of WINZ candidates who will become employees, and other employees who are new entrants to the construction industry and relocating from outside Auckland.
  • For the overseas workers,  NPL assists workers to arrange IRD numbers, bank accounts, arranges health and safety training, competency assessments. NPL also provides orientation to New Zealand culture and nomenclature, and in particular how the New Zealand construction sector operates given our comparatively high health and safety standards. We provide these workers with options for accommodation near where their work location is going to be and advise on transportation. We also undertake an assessment of their specific skills, and analyse where they would best fit in and assimilate within our current workforce.
  • We have provided Immigration New Zealand with information for their investigation into Peter Li. Because of our concerns with his fraudulent practices and exploitative migrant behaviours, we ceased our relationship with him last year.

Update on accommodation issue

  • There have been some recent media reports on NPL, some NPL Chinese workers and their accommodation.
  • On 9 January 2019, NPL released a statement as attached at Appendix One.

Information about the NPL workers and accommodation

  • As NPL advised INZ last year, some of the workers were brought to New Zealand without NPL’s knowledge by Mr Li, and therefore appropriate accommodation arrangements were not available to the workers. Once it became aware of this, NPL arranged for some of the workers to stay in the sleeping quarters of the farmhouse accommodation at no charge. NPL had no contractual or other obligations to accommodate the workers, but offered to assist on compassionate grounds.
  • The workers were not charged for rent or any utilities (such as electricity etc) by NPL at any time that they stayed at the farmhouse accommodation.

Concerns with overcrowding

  • When the workers moved into the accommodation, it was made clear to them that it was only a temporary measure as the property was needed for its original purpose as a transitional facility and they would need to move to their own permanent accommodation as soon as NPL finished assessing their skills. Once some workers were allocated jobs, we advised them that they would have to vacate the accommodation as it was temporary, and staying there would cause overcrowding.
  • NPL had proactively been looking at alternative accommodation arrangements, and we had advised the workers of these options on several occasions. However, they did not accept any of these arrangements as they did not want to pay.
  • During their stay at the accommodation, the workers moved furniture out of living areas of the sleeping quarters, and invited people who were not NPL employees to live at the accommodation without NPL’s consent. Three people, who had been brought to New Zealand by Mr Li but had declined to take up employment with NPL, also began living at the accommodation without NPL’s consent.
  • These factors caused overcrowding, and we told the workers who staying there on numerous occasions that there were too many people staying there and those who were not allowed to stay there would have to leave.

No other alternative than to issue trespass notice

  • On 20 December 2018, we wrote to the NPL workers saying, in good faith, that they needed to move out and if they were willing to do so then there would be no further action taken. We were advised by some of them that they would only move out if the Police removed them.
  • We had no alternative but to issue a trespass notice to the workers to vacate the premises on 28 December 2018.
  • On about 3 January 2019, NPL was notified by the workers that they had spoken with their legal advocate and understood that they were required to vacate the premises. However, the workers remained at the accommodation. On 4 January 2019, the workers continued to refuse to leave, and told NPL representatives to ‘bring the Police’ if NPL wanted to move them out.
  • On 6 January 2019, NPL arranged for the Police to attend the property and enforce the trespass notice. The Police advised us later that evening that they could not attend as they had other urgent priorities.
  • On 7 January 2019, NPL representatives visited the farmhouse accommodation with a view to asking the Police to return again. There were no workers at the property. On advice from the Police, NPL representatives removed the workers’ belongings which were securely stored at another property. NPL also arranged for a security guard to be placed on the gate of the property. The workers were notified that they could not re-enter the property and advised of how to collect their belongings.
  • The workers returned later than evening, and entered the property. The security guard and NPL representatives told them that they could not be on the property and they were trespassing. They unsuccessfully attempted to enter the house, however we had securely locked it. The Police were called and NPL representatives locked themselves in the property for safety.  The workers left the property and went to stand on the road.  Later, the Police arrived and talked with the workers, then advised NPL representatives that if they entered the property again to call them and they would be arrested.
  • Later that evening, the workers entered the property again. They broke into and entered the house. NPL representatives advised the Police of this, and then left the property for safety reasons.
  • On 8 January 2019, some workers were still on the property. The Police were called and attended the property. After further discussion with Police, the workers left the property voluntarily with all their belongings.

Christmas shut down period

  • It has been reported in media that some NPL employees and their advocates have said that they were terminated or that their employment relationships had ended over the past few weeks. This is not correct.
  • Like most other construction companies in New Zealand, NPL has a Christmas shut down period where it is closed for the Christmas holiday. We advised all workers, including the Chinese workers that we shut down from 22 December 2018 and start back on 14 January 2019.

Current situation with the NPL workers

  • NPL has been working with INZ and some of the workers to appropriately transfer their visa requirements to other employers. Some workers continue to work for NPL.
  • We are currently considering taking legal action for some of the unlawful activity that took place on 7 January 2019.

Other media issues

  • One media outlet has reported about the cadetship programme operated by Poutama Training Institute of New Zealand (“Poutama”).
  • Poutama is no longer in operation and therefore no longer offers the programme. However Poutama was not registered with the New Zealand Qualifications Authority, did not receive any government funding from the Tertiary Education Commission and trainees were not eligible for student loans and allowances through Studylink,
  • The programme was set up to give the trainees some foundation skills to achieve employment in the construction industry.
  • Poutama offered the programme to one cohort of young people, predominantly Maori, and received a lot of positive feedback. The programme was delivered at a marae in Hamilton and in a large sand quarry. It included a “live in” component of four weeks, where trainees were provided with full-time practical training in a simulated environment.
  • All trainees who successfully completed the cadetship programme received a completion certificate issued by Poutama (i.e. a local certificate, not a national or NZQA certificate as Poutama was not registered with NZQA). 100% of the graduates of the programme were offered full time employment with NPL.
  • Poutama no longer operates such cadetship programmes. NPL now has an arrangement directly with BCITO, the building and construction industry training organisation.

Appendix ONE – statement from national personnel limited

Released on 9 January 2019

National Personnel Limited (NPL) is releasing comments in response to news reports from some employees.

Some news reports that NPL have charged these employees $150 per week in rent are completely false. NPL has not charged or received rent or utility charges (e.g. electricity) from some employees who have stayed at NPL’s accommodation.

NPL has proactively offered alternative accommodation for the employees and has worked with other employees to find their own accommodation. NPL has no obligation to provide accommodations to its workers. On compassionate grounds, NPL estimates it has provided over $25,000 of free accommodation to these employees.

A group of employees refused to leave the property, and they allowed additional people who were not NPL employees to stay. This caused overcrowding.

Some allegations have been made that NPL seized some employees’ passports; this is not correct. NPL followed advice from the Police to remove belongings and store them in a safe place.

NPL will be making no further comment.