Major recruitment company accused of exploiting jobless
A Newshub investigation has revealed a major recruitment company is signing up beneficiaries to legally questionable employment contracts.
Global recruitment company Manpower Group is looking for temporary workers and Work and Income is helping to provide staff.
Newshub spoke to jobseeker Tom (not his real name) who is struggling to find work. When he got the call up from Work and Income, he reported for duty.
He was given a contract and was encouraged to sign it on the spot by Ministry of Social Development (MSD) staff.
"It just struck me as incredibly exploitative," Tom said.
Exploitative because one of the clauses in Manpower's contract gives the company power to collect and pass on their workers' sexual preferences and practices, race, religious beliefs and political views.
In a statement, Manpower Group said while it does ask for the information, it will only collect the information if deemed necessary.
It said sensitive information listed may be collected "due to the requirements of a specific role being recruited, or the sensitivity of work to be completed".
However it's not just what was in the contract, but also what wasn't.
There was no detail of the hours, pay rate, work description, location or duration of the job.
Barrister Richard Upton says that is illegal.
"These are the mandatory requirements in terms of what has to be in every written individual employment agreement. So to try and get around that I would say is actually not only irregular but unlawful," he said.
The Manpower contract says because jobs vary and are short notice, the company may be unable to provide that information prior to an assignment, but it will brief the worker verbally before they start.
The lack of information made Tom anxious because he doesn't have a driver's license.
Not turning up for a job because he couldn't get to or do it could result in having his benefit cut for 13 weeks.
"I really did feel if I had refused to sign, I would have been taken out and told I had refused an offer of employment. I would be sanctioned, no benefit, out of the street," Tom said.
Mr Upton says having a MSD staffer in the room when the contract was on offer does put pressure on a beneficiary.
"Now [the possibility of losing a benefit] may not be said expressly but having WINZ in the room with that threat handing over you, I would suggest it really doesn't leave the employee with much choice at all,"
A closer look at paperwork reveals the Manpower Privacy Collection Statement allowing it to gather sensitive information including a worker's sexual preferences.
Vanessa Cole from advocacy group Auckland Action Against Poverty says that is unacceptable.
"It just leaves space for bigotry. It leaves space for racism and sexism and discrimination."
It also means potential prosecution for the employer.
"It is a very dangerous area for an employer to be trampling into. I would certainly suggest they stay well away from those sorts of questions," says Mr Upton.
Tom says he raised concerns with two Manpower representatives and a Work and Income employee but was told it was a standard contract and he should sign.
He says he felt "absolutely coerced, just completely bullied".
MSD Auckland Regional Director Lynda Smardon says she is confident Work and Income clients working with Manpower Group receive job offers that comply with its criteria.
Ms Smardon also acknowledged client concerns with the individual employment agreement. She says she is of the understanding Manpower has amended their individual employment agreement document.
Manpower Group has since amended the individual agreement document to ensure "greater clarity".