Nearly 100 NZ companies declined RSE involvement after breaches
Nearly 100 companies wanting to take part in the scheme that brings seasonal workers from the Pacific to New Zealand have had their applications declined after they breached the rules.
Nearly 100 companies wanting to take part in the scheme that brings in seasonal workers from the Pacific have had their applications declined after they breached the rules.
The Labour Inspectorate says the cases span the 10 year life of the scheme and in instances amount to a breach of emplyment law.
Philippa Tolley has more.
In April, the programme that supplies mainly Pacific workers to fill labour shortages in the horticulture and wine growing industries will be a decade old.
The Recognised Seasonal Employers scheme, or RSE, has been praised for helping the industries grow, while the workers take much needed cash back to their home villages in nations such as Samoa, Tonga, and more recently Fiji.
Mitieli Sikura is from Labasa and works picking apples in a Hawkes Bay orchard.
The money he saves from his work in New Zealand has helped his village improve their standard of living.
"So before we leave NZ, the 12 of us bought a set of solar energy because back at home, like there's no electricity, so like these help a lot back at home and we started to renovate our houses which was damaged by the cyclone."
But in Marlborough, some workers from Vanuatu have been struggling to get complaints listened to, including this man who didn't want his name revealed.
"The rate is changing slow and it's not that same as the other times we come here to come and do vineyard work, so the rate they give us is too low," he said.
And the demand for extra workers shows no sign of slowing down.
The manager of the RSE scheme at Immigration New Zealand, George Rarere, said in the past 10 years the national cap on the number of workers employed each year has gone from five thousand to 10-and-a-half thousand.
But he said the number of staff to check how things are going remains unchanged.
"Ten years ago we had six Labour inspectors and we had six compliance officers, and today we still have 6 Labour inspectors working on the scheme and six compliance officers along with two relationship managers," he said.
That level of monitoring worries the only union representative based in Blenheim, Steve McManus of the Central and Amalgamated Union.
Complaints have to go through employers and then often distant government officials.
He said some labour providers can take advantage of their Pacific workers.
"The thing is with the overseas workers they get exploited because they know that they are vulnerable and can be got at by just putting the fear into them saying that they may not be back next year."
Along with the nearly 100 hundred companies whose applications to take part or recruit under the RSE scheme were declined, in the last 3 years, the labour inspectorate has issued 20 improvement notices to RSE employers.
They were found to have breached rules by not having proper wage and time sheets or paying holiday pay correctly.
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