A scheme to recruit overseas interns to assist with its election campaign has landed the Labour Party in hot water. Around 85 volunteers paid for return flights to New Zealand for an internship; expecting world campaign experience with lectures from Andrew Little, Jacinda Ardern and former Prime Minister Helen Clark.
They landed with high hopes but arrived to cramped sub-standard cubicles, broken shower facilities, no lectures and no pay. Labour is now copping flack for running a sweat shop campaign operation and exploiting international students.
Māori Party Co-Leader Marama Fox says it smells of hypocrisy and she’s “outraged”.
“Matt McCarten should be ashamed, Labour should be ashamed in fact I'm ashamed. This is not how we treat visitors to New Zealand.”
Advertised as The Labour Fellowship Programme it was run by former Labour Auckland head Matt McCarten, who left his job last month.
He took the scheme with him, renaming it "Campaign for Change" and while not run out of the Labour Party Auckland office, it was still supported by them.
Pictures of Awataha marae provided to Politik blog shows sub-standard accommodation for Labour's campaign recruits.
Fox says the students have been exploited.
“This is not free labour this is slave labour."
Awataha did not confirm the photos were of its facilities and declined Te Kāea access to view its accommodation, but Labour confirmed the students are still staying there.
Labour Party General Press Secretary Andrew Kirton says he’s been working one-on-one with the students since taking over the programme at the beginning of the week.
"The plan from here is to move as many students throughout the country working on local campaigns. Other students who would like to return home we're going to facilitate that and assist with that process."
The revelations have put Labour under pressure for contradicting its calls to legislate tough minimum standards for boarding houses to make sure they are safe, warm and dry.
Kirton says "Oh look I'm not focused on that at all at this stage, my main focus right now is making sure these volunteers a great bunch of people get some campaign experience and they deal with the confusion that they're experiencing right now.
When asked if the student’s confusion was due to Labour having arranged this accommodation he said McCarten was responsible.
"Well it was Matt McCarten's programme that he was leading in support with the Auckland Labour Party and as soon as we we're aware of there being issues we stepped in."
Kirton says the programme usually caters to six or seven people, and over capacity under McCarten created issues that Kirton says the party is working to resolve.