A union is labelling the exploitation of migrant workers as alarming and says something has to change.
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E tū commissioned research it says exposes the poor pay and housing conditions for mostly Filipino employees.
Infrastructure spokesperson Ron Angel says the negative experience takes a huge toll.
"They are away from their families, they are treated poorly, and they are starting to suffer from depression."
The research recorded the experience of mostly Filipino construction workers in Christchurch and Auckland in 2017 and 2018.
One Filipino worker earned $27 an hour, compared with $35 paid to Kiwi workers, but said others earn much less - as little as $19 an hour.
In one case, three interviewed workers shared a sleepout with another 10 in the house, all paying $150 a week rent. In another case, four families shared a four-bedroom home. Many experienced damp, unhealthy living conditions.
Many are in debt to immigration companies when they arrive and report their pay is too low to meet criteria for extending their visas.
"Here we were welcoming these people into New Zealand to help rebuild Canterbury and we didn't look after them. In fact, we made life terrible for them and I feel ashamed," Mr Angel said.
He says this is the first time research has shown these workers were being underpaid because they were Filipino and for no other reason.
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Mr Angel says Immigration needs to ensure migrant workers are properly cared for.
Newshub has contacted MBIE for a response.