The Wellington Archdiocese Filipino chaplaincy outreach group has been working this week with Challenge 2000 and Wellington Catholic Social Services to ensure emergency food parcels have been provided to around 74 Filipino construction and road workers in the Wellington region who are living on 80% of their usual wages.
Filipino chaplain Fr Marlon Tebellin says Filipinos have high levels of resilience, and a way of handing problems over to God, as expressed in the saying used when people find themselves facing difficulties: “Bahala na ang Diyos” which means “Everything to God”.
However, he said many workers based here will be facing great uncertainty, both in terms of their employment here, but also because of their concerns that they are unable to support family left behind in the Philippines, who are also facing restricted movement and loss of income because of the impact of Covid-19 there. Although the New Zealand based workers’ incomes have dropped, they continue to pay high rent and other costs, arranged as part of their employment conditions in New Zealand.
The New Zealand government has advocated that New Zealanders working in Australia, who contribute through their taxes to the social security net, should not be excluded from the benefits of that social security net. This is commendable, however the same situation applies to thousands of workers in New Zealand on temporary work visas.
While it is good that the temporary Covid-19 wage subsidy is being paid to people in New Zealand on temporary work visas, as well as to citizens and residents, the same access is not operating in terms of our social welfare system.
Section 64 of the Social Security Act 2018 specifically provides for emergency benefits to be extended in the situation of an epidemic. As Cardinal John Dew said in a letter this week to the Prime Minister and Minister of Social Development, “It is hard to imagine the use of this Section of the Act other than in the unprecedented circumstances in which we currently find ourselves.”
People who are in a position to contribute towards emergency assistance for people on temporary work visas in New Zealand, as well as others from migrant worker or refugee backgrounds, can channel donations to Wellington Catholic Social Services by internet banking: 02-0560-0213864-000 or contact CSS on 04-385-9642.