Migrants left jobless due to ELE liquidation sleeping in cars, unable to afford food

By Luka Forman for RNZ

The union for workers who lost their jobs when labour hire group ELE went into liquidation is holding a meeting this afternoon, to update dozens of jobless migrants on their plight.

About 500 people lost their jobs and up to 24 Filipino migrant workers were left sleeping in their cars because they had no income to pay for rent.

Red Aguhar came to New Zealand hoping to make money to send back to his family in the Philippines.

But the sudden collapse of ELE has left him worried about providing for them in addition to his own expenses.

Aguhar's words were translated with the help of the Union Network of Migrants within FIRST Union.

"It was a big blow and the first thing that comes to his mind is the rent, the repayment for his car and the money he'll take back home," translator Mikee Santos said.

Without any income, Aguhar had to sleep in his car that he parked at a friend's place.

"He uses the lounge and the toilets, but at the end of the day, at night-time he will come here and sleep in the car, it's very dire."

Desperate for work, Aguhar hopes that when he finds it, he will be able to get a new visa, as his previous one was tied to his employer.

"Hopefully if finally he gets a job and lodges his visa, hopefully Immigration New Zealand will expedite extremely fast to approve his visa and he can go back to employment."

FIRST Union general secretary Dennis Maga said several workers were in the same situation as Aguhar.

"Many of them travelled from Hamilton to Auckland just to see their friends and ask their friends if they can park their cars and sleep in the car."

The union was talking to ELE's liquidator, Deloitte, to ensure the workers got a fair deal, Maga said.

"We can continue to appeal for their claim and other entitlements because they need that money to pay for their rent and to pay for their food."

He had also asked the Philippines embassy for assistance.

"The Filipino embassy responded positively and I think they are now in communication with those workers ... and I heard that some of them have already received some funding from the embassy."

Maga hoped this afternoon's meeting in Auckland would provide answers for the migrants who just wanted to get back to work.