PACER-plus negotiations promoted in New Zealand
The chief trade advisor for Pacific countries has been visiting New Zealand unions to promote the regional PACER-plus negotiations and greater labour mobility.
The chief trade advisor for Pacific countries has been visiting New Zealand unions promoting the regional PACER-plus negotiations and greater labour mobility.
Edwini Kessie says Pacific countries are hoping to extend the Recognised Seasonal Employers scheme from the horticultural and viticultural sectors to other areas.
Dr Kessie told Koro Vaka'uta he also tried to allay union concerns that PACER-plus negotiations were under pressure from Australia and New Zealand to the detriment of the Pacific countries.
EDWINI KESSIE: Some of their statements that PACER-plus would actually erode the economic independence of Pacific island countries and affect their sovereignty, I don't think that this is borne out by the results of the negotiations and I believe that PACER-plus will actually put the Pacific countries, would strengthen their capacity to benefit from world trade rather than what has been alledged by the unions.
KORO VAKA'UTA: Have the unions been satisfied with what you have put, in terms of their concerns?
EK: Generally I think they mean well. They basically want to see development in the Pacific island countries in a sustainable manner. I'm sure because they don't know what the results of the negotiations are thus far then maybe they are quite misinformed as to the benefits would be for Pacific island countries but generally I think they are broadly supportive of the economic development and growth of the Pacific island countries.
KV: You've mentioned in the past about labour mobility and how that is an issue you are wanting to look at, in terms of your meetings this week, have there been any movements or developments on that front?
EK: In my meetings with some of the unions I think we made it quite clear that the Pacific island countries would like to see greater movement on this issue from Australia and New Zealand. The unions are very much appreciative of that. They are aware. Their main concern is that they want some guarantees basically that the scheme will not undermine workers' rights in this country, that Pacific workers will be treated in the same way as New Zealand workers. This is basically their main concern but they were not opposed to the RSE or other countries that may offer employment opportunities to Pacific island countries. Their main concern that they wanted guarantees that the conditions will be the same, that there will be no exploitation of Pacific workers. It's something that we could all work towards to ensure because I don't think it is happening now even if it is happening it may be very isolated but by and large I believe that most of the employers are very scrupulous people.
KV: Were they open to the possible extension of the scheme to other sectors as well?
EK: They were non-committal. We did discuss age-care and they all accepted that as an areas where there might be opportunities but they were noncommittal.
KV: Are you hopeful that you achieved what you wanted to achieve on this trip, on this visit?
EK: I think we made progress. Now we know where the unions are coming from and I think it gave me an opportunity to explain what we are doing with PACER-plus. The overall objective of PACER-plus being that we want to assist Pacific island countries to obtain sustainable growth and development. We also wanted the support of the unions to the improvement of the RSE scheme so I think we managed to exchange good views. We had a very honest discussion so from that perspective I am quite satisfied.
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