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Saturday 25 June 2022

Summer RSE worker decision a “positive start”

30th November 2020 By Samantha Worthington | | @foodtickernz

Growers are relieved by the government’s announcement that a cohort of Registered Seasonal Employer workers will arrive in the New Year, but are calling for further planning for the 2021/2022 season.

Hort NZ chief executive Mike Chapman and agriculture minister Damien O’Connor in July 2020. Image: Hort NZ.

On Friday, immigration minister Kris Faafoi and agriculture minister Damien O’Connor announced 2000 RSE workers would be brought to New Zealand from Pacific countries from January 2021.

After months of uncertainty at the hand of Covid-19, Mike Chapman chief executive of Horticulture NZ said the news was a “positive start”, but there was still more that needed to be done. 

“While the timing of the government’s decision means that spring and early summer crops have missed out, growers across the country are relieved that some of the essential workers needed from low Covid risk Pacific countries are being let it,” said Chapman. 

“The 2000 RSE workers is a positive start to addressing current seasonal labour issues but we also need to start planning for spring 2021 and harvest 2022.”

Since April, the midst of the pandemic, HortNZ said it had worked tirelessly in partnership with key RSE employer product groups like New Zealand Apples and Pears (NZAPI) to get the greenlight. 

NZAPI chief executive Alan Pollard said it was a great example of key sectors coming together to find a solution: “We have worked constructively together with the government to achieve this initial outcome, with a commitment to continue to engage where adjustments may be needed,” he said.

Though the RSE workers had been approved entry, there were strict conditions of which the Council of Trade Unions said “set an important precedent”.

Employers would have to pay a living wage of at least $22.10 an hour, pay 30 hours’ a week while they were in managed isolation for 14 days, and cover quarantine costs, estimated at $4472 a worker.

On the living wage requirement,CTU president, Richard Wagstaff, said it should become the”new minimum standard” for all industries, especially those with labour shortages.

“This decision sets an important precedent for employers who complain of labour shortages. Employers, regardless of industry, must do their bit to raise wages and conditions to attract people to work,” said Wagstaff.

BusinessNZ chief executive Kirk Hope said the change was critical and timely: “Our exports industries have weathered the Covid storm well to date, but it would have been devastating to let fruit rot on the ground and cause economic damage to regions if access to workers was constrained by border restrictions.”



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