13 Apr 2016

Hire New Zealanders first, govt says

11:33 am on 13 April 2016

Employers are being told to stop taking convenient short-cuts by going to international hire companies before acknowledging the potential job applicants right in front of them.

The government announced yesterday that employers wanting to hire overseas workers would now be required to first engage with Work and Income to ensure there was no New Zealander who could do the job.

A Solomon Islander picking apples in a Hawke's Bay orchard as part of New Zealand's Recognised Seasonal Employer scheme.

Photo: RNZ / Johnny Blades

Immigration Minister Michael Woodhouse told Morning Report employers' first port of call should now be Work and Income before the international market.

Mr Woodhouse said the change was about the process of recruiting.

"We saw too many occasions when an employer would perhaps first go to an international labour hire company in order to meet their labour needs, apply for approval to recruit them with Immigration New Zealand and then have them scurry off to Work and Income to check the check that's always been in place."

Now, he said, employers must start the recruiting process at Work and Income to first establish if there were any suitable local candidates.

Police Minister, Michael Woodhouse.

Michael Woodhouse Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

"First you've got to do the skills check and find out who might be available before accessing the international labour market."

Mr Woodhouse said it was always policy that New Zealanders were first in line for jobs.

"I can't help thinking that there are some who might have gone to that [international market] too readily and we have got to make sure that our young New Zealanders and all New Zealanders are selected to do the job before overseas workers are."

Council of Trade Unions president Richard Wagstaff said the changes were a positive step and employers would have to rethink how they operated, but it was also a chance for them to look at how all workers were treated.

He said they could not expect people to "pick up sticks, and pick up a minimum wage job with no job security."

The changes are also expected to speed up the application process in cases where overseas workers are required.