Immigration Minister Iain Lees-Galloway says a planned 1600 rise in numbers of migrant seasonal workers next year won't now go ahead as 'more New Zealanders will be available to do this work'

Immigration Minister Iain Lees-Galloway says a planned 1600 rise in numbers of migrant seasonal workers next year won't now go ahead as 'more New Zealanders will be available to do this work'

The Government's axed a planned 1600 increase in the number of migrant seasonal workers allowed into the country next year as it now believes "more New Zealanders will be available to do this work".

Immigration Minister Ian Lees-Galloway last year announced a more than 3150 increase in seasonal workers across two years, which would have taken the total number up to 16,000 by next year. The planned increase of 1550 workers this year went ahead (taking the total to 14,400), but the proposed 1600 increase for next year now won't go ahead.

The reversal of the change was contained within an announcement from Lees-Galloway on Wednesday announcing some support measures for the around 9000 seasonal workers who are still here because they've been stranded by the border closures.

On the decision to effectively cut by 1600 the number of migrant seasonal workers next year Lees-Galloway said: "We are facing a rise in unemployment among New Zealanders and we expect more New Zealanders to be available for work next season.

"For this reason, the Government has decided to keep the RSE [Recognised Seasonal Employer] scheme annual cap at 14,400 for the next year.

"This is not what we originally announced and planned but we anticipate that more New Zealanders will be available to do this work next year so we could not justify another increase of the cap as we originally planned.

"I want to give employers in the horticulture and viticulture industries as much certainty as possible in uncertain times, so I have taken the decision now even though next seasons workers will only be able to enter New Zealand when it is safe to relax border restrictions," Lees-Galloway said.

In terms of the support measures for the 9000 workers stranded in New Zealand, Lees Galloway said:

  • Stranded RSE workers will be able to work part-time (a minimum of 15 hours per week) and with no limit on roles that they can do.
  • The workers will need to have an employment agreement with an RSE employer, who will need to continue to honour commitments under the RSE scheme.
  • Any additional time an RSE worker spends in New Zealand will not count towards the time they would ordinarily have to spend overseas before they can return for seasonal work.

"The Government is supporting Pacific Island governments to repatriate their citizens but many are expected to remain in New Zealand for some time.” Lees-Galloway said.

"RSE visas limit workers to specific work, which is now drying up despite the Government already supporting workers to move to new RSE employers unable to bring in migrant workers as the borders are closed.

"The RSE scheme is part of our special relationship with the Pacific. As a country, we have a responsibility to support these workers and their employers, whose pastoral care responsibilities include accommodation for the workers."

The latest changes announced by the minister followed a series of changes announced by him on Tuesday, with 16,500 workers who were due to have employer-assisted temporary work visas expire by the end of this year, seeing those visas extended by a further six months, while 600 lower-skilled workers due to be subject to the 12-month stand-down period (in which they would have to leave the country) have seen this period shifted from August this year to February 2021.

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34 Comments

Good decision.
We accommodate 25 overseas workers from Vanuatu, Solomon Islands, PNG etc… for several months, each year. I once asked the person in charge of them: "why do you employ people from the islands, don't you have to pay them the same rate as Kiwis?" he replied: "we do but we can't find Kiwis willing to do the job and the island people are much better workers". I thought that was very sad

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I think it's usually a case of relative options though Yvil. A kiwi wage might be comparatively high for the type of work for overseas workers. So they would be enthusiastic for the opportunity, even to the extent that they would travel to another country and be away from friends and family to achieve it.

Whereas Kiwis have other options. If they *don't* have those other options for some reason or wages for fruit picking increases, then it might become a more attractive job for Kiwis again. We all assess the job market based on getting the most money for the most favourable job. That isn't sad, it's just free market capitalism, which I believe you are a strong advocate for?

When I was a kid, teenagers and uni students from the UK used to go over to France to do fruit picking as a holiday job. It was never a job that adults with education or skills would do and the British kids did it because French summers are amazing compared to UK ones! So they had a holiday experience too.

I agree with your "relative options" GN. So where does that leave us in the future? When unemployment rises, will Kiwis be willing to work in the orchards for minimum pay or take the "option" of a benefit? Raising the wages substantially is not commercially viable as the fruit picked will end up being too expensive not eh supermarket shelf or to export.

This is the pickle we have found ourselves in with globalisation though isn't it? Globalised labour market, pushes down prices, people then come to expect low prices and it propels a need to maintain globalisation (until every labour market in the world has eventually "developed" and all expect the same higher wages). But whether it happens now due to geo-politics, due to climate change or because we run our of countries whose citizens still offer cheap labour, it would always come to the point eventually when we need to find an alternative way to feed ourselves as a species. Obviously, with a nation becoming "first world" their fertility rate drops massively, but unfortunately their consumption and waste rates then go up massively. At some point, globalisation was always going to hit that brick wall and market forces (in the true sense of the word because central banks can only magic money tokens out of thin air, not actual food). Maybe we can mechanise fruit picking? Or maybe we just have to change our expectations and lifestyles?

How could we ended up with anything but globalisation in a world that so many products and services are produced, requiring a crazy range of raw materials and labour (both skilled and unskilled). The protectionist economies could not survive the boom in technology. Specialization is an unavoidable consequence of technological development.No one can become a knowing all leading all in everything. Whichever way you cut it you will still prefer to live in a global world (unless it is literally impossible due to wars, natural catastrophes etc).

The only real alternative to the global world we have today is a global empire (or maybe two competing empires with each to their own). That is truly terrible.

This isn't our first stab at globalisation Believer1980. The world achieved a peak of Globalisation during the Bronze Age followed by a collapse. We peaked again with the Roman Empire, which was again followed by collapse. Twice we have gone from central heating and plumbing to living on top of our faecal matter again in the space of 100 years. During each decline, technological skill was lost. Population, skills, trade, art, culture, everything declined. So whilst there does appear to be an inevitability for our species to becoming heavily reliant on globalisation there is no reason to think that globalisation infinitely increases and expands. Globalisation brings many benefits, no doubt, but it also increase fragility in the system which is why, if we create a world that is heavily reliant on globalisation and then if globalisation fails, it is followed by a monumental systems collapse. There are numerous events or triggers that could undermine globalisation, it simply cannot be guaranteed in perpetuity. And when you have a system that is so heavily reliant on globalised materials and labour and when no one is self sufficient... the decline is inevitably cataclysmic.

Our current globalised system is not planned, it just haphazardly grew. It is not a system created with a grand scheme in mind that will protect us all from risks. Most countries do not have a back-up plan. Look at the UK, even with years to plan alternative arrangements to supplies from the EU they couldn't make adequate preparations for a hard Brexit. There were medicine and food stock piles and panicked last minute contingency plans. And that *wasn't* a surprise or shock to the system, there was a referendum campaign, a vote, a schedule to enact the decision, and extension to the schedule etc. The British people don't grow enough food or produce enough of anything to survive by themselves. Few countries do.

Look how quickly the system seized up when a not-particularly-lethal new virus arrived and then imagine how we would cope if something really major happened. Or just look at the history of war and geo-politics and how quickly trade can break down.

Globalisation has given many in the world unprecedented safety and comfort but make no mistake, it has also made us extremely vulnerable (not to mention is has amplified the speed at which we are f&%#ing the planet, which is our home).

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I wonder how much attitudes will change when there are a lot of jobless and desperation comes to the fore

That is quite sad, although it's good our retrenched workforce at least has some avenues available for keeping a decent cashflow coming in times of desperate need.

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.. can't find kiwis to do the job for the bad pay. Kiwis have to live like Kiwis and supports families. Overseas workers are here temporarily only, so are happy to live a low quality of life, packed into low quality accomodation.

Pay well and you'll get competent Kiwi workers.

I hear that many RSE workers are directed to certain accomodations, where they are overcharged. So wages get returned to employers.
Is this why those employers prefer them.

Yes. There was a case last year in Northland. An orchardist's conditions of employment required the workers to stay at the camping ground next door and patronise the meagre eatery. Naturally the locals were not interested in having to pay for the costs of their own home and then rent out a room at the camping ground and eat there when they had a wife and family and a meal waiting at home

The same with Au-Pair's. An Auckland au-pair outfit complains they can't get locals to do au-pair work. The hiring families require the au-pair to live in and eat in 6 days a week. And the remuneration reflects that. Locals who live at home for free or pay a modest board dont see that as workable. And you can hardly blame them. So the agency pleads for the right to bring in overseas bunnies to do the work. Its not that the locals cant do it. The pay is stupid

Pukenui
YOU understand that for the duration of the job you MUST stay at the Pukenui Holiday Park
Would you take this on – Fly-in Fly-out 8 weeks work for $8000 assuming the weather is perfect – paid for the hours worked – it’s a wonder anyone will take this on. Short Term Foreign Labour. Orchard work – 8 weeks
"We need people to help spraying weeding pruning planting pinning and fertilizing on our avocado orchard for 8-10 weeks 8 hours per day 6-7 days per week (weather dependent). You will be staying at the Pukenui Holiday Park located in Pukenui (in the very Far North). You can stay in a tent or in your van cost $14.00 per night or in shared accomodation for $17 per night. You are paid $19.98 per hour (including holiday pay). YOU understand that for the duration of the job you MUST stay at the Pukenui Holiday Park."

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It will be hard for the Dickensian bosses to adapt to employing kiwi workers who know their rights and will not accept bullying tactics and pittance wages (50% of which being returned to the boss for inhumane dormitory accommodation).

FB you often seem to be more opinionated than informed. The accommodation you claim to be inhumane is inspected by the Department of Labour, to provide such accommodation, the supplier has to follow strict rules, min size rooms, heating, insulation, cooking facilities, sanitary facilities on site support etc...
It would be nice if you limited your comments on matters you actually know about

The difference between reading an article and having the experience of providing the actual accommodation

Yvil, I do not doubt that you provide good accommodation but that does not mean that everybody does.

Fair enough, thanks

Central Otago Summerfruit will be the hardest hit area for lack of pickers - there is no large metropolitan area near from which to draw kiwis. The C O cherry industry alone will be potentially looking for 6000 staff if the fruit buds on the trees are any indication of the potential crop. This is for a period of mid Dec 2020- end of Jan 2021/early Feb. Fruit picking is a young persons job. Packhouse work can accommodate older age groups. It's going to get interesting.......

Australian experience of Aussies wanting to work in horticulture https://www.freshplaza.com/article/9227943/australian-growers-call-for-c...

UK experience: https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2020/04/27/112-50000-uk-applicants-frui...

I'm in Central Otago. Some employers overstate their need for workers.
New Zealanders can travel in to work, two days later told "no work".
Family members have found excellent employers as well. But the bad stories are frequent.

The cherry industry is particularly fickle when it comes to production. Cherries are the most perishable fruit crop grown in NZ. Take the industry last season. Difficult pollination season, early season frosts, rain (causes splits), hail and strong winds (blemishes) saw many growers, especially those that target the market pre Christmas lose 50% or more of their crop. Some crops weren't picked. Like the ski industry, pickers only get paid when they work. So if it rains there likely won't be any work for 2 days - day of rain and following day. Due to substantial loses there wasn't the work pre Christmas that either growers or pickers were expecting. Many pickers left the area, which then created a shortage of pickers for the main crop pick, after Christmas. Such is horticulture. If you are on a mixed fruit orchard, you are likely to have fewer 'no work' days.
This year the industry will be a carrying out a campaign to get kiwis to come to Central. The issue them becomes one of accommodation for 4-6000 people who majorly, will not be arriving in self contained vehicles. Last year there were around 3000 pickers employed for what was a very disappointing season for many growers. Some were kiwis. As you say there are good and bad employers - they can be found in any industry.

I'd say there are a few reason kiwis don't step in to these jobs.
1. Job security/longevity. The jobs are seasonal by nature. Meaning you might have work for 2 months, maybe a few more depending on the industry. But then, your back in the hunt for the next job. Now try getting a mortgage, sourcing a rental with job 'security' like that. I'd say most people would be looking for something longer term so they can actually progress in their life. Fancy supporting a family on that.

2. Pay. It's minimum wage for hard work, long hours, and coupled with the above makes it pretty unattractive.

3. Location. these jobs are generally in smaller towns. The local population is not always large enough to sustain the number of workers they require. Then if you need to travel 50kms plus for minimum wage work, well things only become harder.

4. High personal debt, which can't be serviced by anything less than their current salary/wages.

Seems to be quite a few people living in camper vans now. Perhaps they could turn in to a transient workforce. Could be a good way of life.

I am sick of hearing employer groups claim labour shortages, which they could easily solve by paying realistically.
There is serious exploitation of desperate people from low wage countries.

All developed countries do it, just in different ways e.g. Nike sweatshops, chinese prison garlic etc

KH, sure some, probably larger companies, could pay their staff much more, i.e. Jeff Bezos of Amazon but the vast majority of small NZ businesses are not "exploiting their employees" most small businesses don't have enough profit to significantly raise employees wages. If you think differently, I propose you start your own business and pay your employees twice market going rate and see how you go

Yvil. It's hard and lots of business models would have to change. Many would go out of business, but why would New Zealand benefit from a low wage economy.
Some things would become more expensive for sure, but a high income economy is the way to go.

what would you consider realistic wage for picking fruit? Picking fruit is globally a minimum wage job and NZ, Australia, France and Luxembourg have the highest minimum wages on the planet. So NZ fruit pickers are paid more than almost anywhere else on the planet (including all the Scandinavian countries, Canada, the UK, to name a few). Not everything can be blamed on business not paying more.

People often point to low wages as the problem, if we addressed housing/accommodation costs maybe people could afford to do these jobs for minimum wage?

Accommodation is important to attract NZ temporary pickers/packers. Maybe build transportable homes that can follow the fruit around. With central sites ready to hook up power, water and sewage. I remember picking, pruning my way around NZ. back then most of the growers had some old huts to stay in.

Who pays for it?

"We are facing a rise in unemployment among New Zealanders and we expect more New Zealanders to be available for work next season."

Rubbish.. Another Kiwi Build Due to a theroreitical Dream from the top of a ministers desk.
Its not the low wages, its the work ethic. Able to get up each morning (often cold) to catch the van (no regular bus/train service) to be at work on time...then there is the manual work...then being able to sort the 1st 5 days still go to work with sore muscles.
This is 'below' the expectations of far too many kiwis now.
And then there is a pat on the head 'poor johnny' be nice attitude of the government when a great proportion of those kiwi workers will not even turn for the van.
What then? , fruit doesn't get picked, cows are not milked.
Throw them out on the street? stop any dole? try someone else?
For the employer that doesnt get those cows milked or that fruit quick at premium before the next hail storm...
Why do we have migrant workers in the 1st place?
Regardless of reason..work ethics or pay ( latter bottom line just an excuse not to work hard.
Scheme just another Kiwi build doomed for failure unless added in a hard nosed , election suicide policy of " you work or starve with no roof over your head like most other places in the world..

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