Recruitment company Manpower accused of worker exploitation

Disgruntled employees met with Auckland Action Against Poverty on Tuesday (Newshub.)
Disgruntled employees met with Auckland Action Against Poverty on Tuesday (Newshub.)

Recruitment company Manpower is under fire for alleged worker exploitation and poor treatment of contractors.

Just two weeks out from Christmas, nearly 50 people hired by the company lost their call centre jobs with Concentrix on behalf of Spark.

Some of them were allegedly told they wouldn't get their holiday pay unless they ended their contract.

The workers say they were told the job would last three months, but instead they were let go after just over two - and only a day after they were dropped, the jobs were re-advertised on job-seeking website Seek.

Mother-of-six Athenamoana Wepiha-Reo was one of the employees. After just one day's training, she was put to work in terrible conditions for just $18 per hour.

"We pretty much had to support each other and learn off one another so that we could get the job done," she told Newshub.

"It was always grotty in there, like the floors were disgusting, people were getting bitten from fleas in there."

Another worker, Leron Gittens-Arnold says he was fortunate he understood the technology.

"We really weren't trained. We taught ourselves. Word gets around as to who knows what or who's good at this particular sort of problem and I was one of the particular people went to."

But nothing could help the conditions they were made to work in.

"It wasn't Oliver Twist, it wasn't a dungeon but there were things that made no sense," Mr Gittens-Arnold said.

"There was 150 of us hired and I would say maybe a dozen support people, and of that large group, that's 162, we had one toilet."

Auckland Action Against Poverty (AAAP) spokesperson Vanessa Cole says it's not employment, but exploitation.

"We're now seeing a whole workforce that were hired by Manpower through Work and Income offices that have all been treated really badly and all been given very short-term, precarious work," she told Newshub.

"It places people in very precarious situations where they have no guaranteed hours, location of work and income, which means they can't guarantee they'll be able to feed their families and be able to ensure that they can pay bills."

Other allegations include workers being told going to the toilet would be counted as part of their 10-minute breaks, not being paid properly for overtime, and being made to do a manager's job for the same pay rate.

While workers have their jobs with Spark or Concentrix, any complaints have to go through Manpower as that's what is recognised as their employer.

A spokesperson for Spark says they will be investigating the situation along with Concentrix.

"Spark clearly takes this news very seriously. When we partner with providers, we encourage them to meet our standards when it comes to the way they look after their workforce," she told Newshub.

"These Manpower employees were contracted by Concentrix. We will be reviewing the situation with our partner Concentrix."

Ms Cole says AAAP will go to Work and Income with the workers, to ensure they get an emergency benefit to help them through Christmas. 

Manpower Group told Newshub it's an ethical company that looks after the wellbeing of its employees and it hasn't received any complaints about work conditions.

It's not the hiring company's first brush with accusations of poor staff treatment.

In November a Newshub investigation revealed workers, who often came through Work and Income, were being signed up to legally questionable employment contracts.

In the contracts there was no detail of the hours, pay rate, work description, location or duration of the job, which barrister Richard Upton said was illegal.

Manpower responded to the allegations at the time saying it had "reviewed and amended [its] individual agreement document to ensure there is greater clarity provided".