Hiring illegal workers 'unfair' - contractors

The unlawful workers were getting away with not paying tax or ACC fees. Photo credit: Getty

Crackdowns on illegal Malaysian construction workers in Auckland is getting the big thumbs up.

Immigration New Zealand's Operation Spectrum uncovered nearly 200 workers who were brought here by third-tier subcontractors.

They were paid between $20 and $40 an hour, but because they did not pay tax, the companies were able to charge less for their services - giving them the upper hand over legitimate companies.

Civil Contractors NZ president Brian Warren says fairness comes first.

"It's important from all contractors' perspective that we are working from a level playing field. The same rules need to apply, and need to be applied, across all organisations."

The unlawful workers were getting away with not just paying zero tax, but also avoided ACC fees and got free medical care.

When Immigration New Zealand staff raided the sites of the illegal workers, many of them ran.

"We'd find people hiding in fire exits, stairwells, ceiling cavities," Alistair Murray, who manages investigations and compliance, told NZME.

Mr Warren says Immigration New Zealand did the right thing by launching an investigation.

"We would totally support any moves to stop that sort of behaviour and that sort of employing, because it's taking advantage of people which we certainly don't condone."

He says he hasn't heard of similar issues within the civil contracting industry.