15 Aug 2008

Island workers return home after work dries up

5:26 pm on 15 August 2008

Dozens of workers from Kiribati who came to New Zealand to work under the Recognised Seasonal Employer scheme are going home, reportedly unpaid.

Most of the 70 i-Kiribati labourers left the Marlborough wine-growing contractor they were working for in June after concerns emerged about the quality of the accommodation he provided.

Several other local contractors stepped in to give the i-Kiribati more work in the industry, but that employment has now dried up.

However, the New Zealand Winegrowers' manager of policy, Dr John Barker, says the RSE scheme has generally been a success.

"It seems to me an issue partly about expectations, also organisation at this end, particularly when people have come here with quite different expectations and how to manage that and I guess how to be organised enough to look after those people in a proper way needs to be taken on board."

While the Department of Labour is investigating the case, 10 of the i-Kiribati workers have absconded.