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Saturday 21 May 2022

Food sector agreements, wage exemptions, fast track residency to plug worker shortages – govt

12th May 2022 By Staff Reporter | | @foodtickernz

New sector agreements with the meat processing and seafood industries will be put in place later this year to help develop their workforces, says the government.

The two food industries are among a number identified by the government on Wednesday as eligible for exceptions to the $27 per hour median wage requirement to recruit migrants on the new Accredited Employer Work Visa. The visa is expected to be open from 4 July.

“Border exceptions are already in place for the seafood, meat processing and adventure tourism sectors, this will allow them to support their immediate workforce needs,” Immigration New Zealand said in an information document on the sector agreements.

“Both the meat processing and seafood sectors were selected given their existing reliance on migrant workers and due to the challenges of attracting New Zealanders into these roles.

“In these cases, allowing a capped number of fixed term migrant workers will support these sectors, without displacing New Zealand workers.”

The measures were unveiled on Wednesday as part of the government’s Rebalancing New Zealand’s Immigration System announced alongside the border re-opening to non-visa countries and cruise ships from 11.59pm Sunday 31 July.

The government said it expected the sector agreements to be in place in the second half of the year.

The wider tourism and hospitality industries, while not part of the sector agreement initiative, will also be exempt from the $27 per hour median wage requirement and allowed to pay a lower wage threshold of $25 per hour, but only for a year.

A new Green List of more than 85 difficult to fill roles has also been created to attract and retain high-skilled workers. The list, which is different from the government’s Regional Skills Shortage List, aimed to provide a prioritised pathway to residency for high skilled workers to relocate to New Zealand long term.

Food technologist and numerous engineering roles are listed among those eligible for fast-tracked residency, with migrant workers allowed to arrive from 4 July and apply for residency from September 2022. Dairy farm manager is among a number of roles that can apply for residency after two years.

“New Zealand cannot return to pre pandemic trends that saw us overly reliant on growing numbers of lower-skilled workers and resulted in the increased exploitation of migrants,” Immigration Minister Kris Faafoi said on Wednesday.

“Through the Accredited Employer Work Visa, employers won’t need to provide as much information, can use their own recruitment processes to prove no New Zealanders are available for work, and Immigration New Zealand will endeavour to have these visas processed within 30 days once an employer is accredited. 

“The government recognises that shift for some sectors is more challenging than others by establishing new sector agreements to assist with the transition. They will provide access for specified sectors to lower-paid migrant workers, and all those employers can continue to hire working holidaymakers at any wage.”

Faafoi added that around 20,000 visa holders with visas expiring before 2023 were being granted either a six-month extension or a new two-year visa with open work conditions, “so they and their employers won’t be affected by [these] changes and we can keep the skills we need within the country”.

More information on the government’s Rebalancing New Zealand’s Immigration System, sector agreements, Green List, and visa changes can be read here.



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