Philippine authorities have suspended two Kiwi firms recruiting migrant workers, citing reports of exploitative work practices and exorbitant recruitment fees.
Christchurch's Business Immigration and its Philippines-based counterpart, Sacred Heart International, were suspended by the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA), along with Auckland's Valiant Homes.
The POEA is a government agency that supervises recruitment agencies in the Philippines. It has supplied more than 1000 workers for Christchurch's rebuild.
The companies are accused of charging migrants fees of up to $13,000 - more than triple the legal maximum in the Philippines.
According to the POEA, eight Filipino workers alleged they paid about NZ$10,000 in "placement fees" to come to New Zealand.
Their complaint was backed by the Philippine Embassy in New Zealand.
Workers allege they were sent to "endorsed" lending companies, which charged exorbitant interest rates swelling their loans to around $15,000.
That is four times the legal maximum for "placement fees".
An Immigration New Zealand (INZ) spokesman said it was investigating "what, if any, action needs to be taken against these two companies".
Warnings were in place to treat immigration applications associated with Business Immigration, Sacred Heart or Valiant Homes with extreme caution, he said.
Business Immigration director Nikki Jones told The Press the workers involved had now signed statements through the Philippine consulate withdrawing complaints and saying all outstanding issues had been resolved.
Philippine Ambassador Virginia Benavidez said she was not aware of the complaints having been withdrawn. The POEA would continue their investigation, she said.
Business Immigration would not comment on its relationship with Sacred Heart, whether workers would be refunded their fees, or why the complaints had been withdrawn.
The Press spoke to four Filipino workers on condition of anonymity, who had come to New Zealand through Sacred Heart or one of its subsidiaries.
All had paid between $10,000 and $13,000.
Most workers had two sets of receipts - one from the loan company and one from Sacred Heart.
While one man's loan receipt showed he had taken out $10,000, the final receipt from Sacred Heart International showed a payment of just $3800. The POEA report suggested many workers recruited by Sacred Heart paid triple what their receipts indicated.
Workers said while they knew the companies were over-charging against the law, they paid anyway to come to New Zealand.
"We know the law. But if you want to make a better future, you take a risk."
According to the POEA report, contracts approved in the Philippines said workers would earn $20 an hour in New Zealand.
Workers at Valiant Homes allege they were being paid up to $80 short each week, and a weekly $30 "service fee" was docked from their wages.Benavidez said New Zealand and the Philippines were working together to try end eliminate debt entrapment and exploitative conditions.
"Sad to say, we have some people in both the Philippines and New Zealand clipping the ticket. It's really against our rules and your rules."
Valiant Homes could not be reached for comment.