23 Mar 2012

New information packs issued for migrant workers

5:15 pm on 23 March 2012

The Government has launched two new information packs for migrant dairy farm workers and their employers.

They have come out of an initiative taken last year by Immigration New Zealand in response to concerns about the welfare of migrant workers and their families.

There are now about 1500 migrant workers in the country, making up 6% of the dairy farming workforce. Most come from the Philippines.

Demand for them has increased in recent years as farmers have found it difficult to attract and keep local staff in some areas.

Immigration New Zealand has worked with organisations such as Rural Women and Federated Farmers to develop the guides, which cover topics like employment and immigration law, keeping safe, New Zealand slang and expressions, and adapting to rural life.

Immigration Minister Nathan Guy says they are largely in response to concerns about the welfare of the workers and their families.

A welcome relief, says one migrant worker

Filipina migrant Lilia Greave says the guides are a welcome relief because a lot of new migrants are too homesick and too shy to ask for help.

She says there have been instances where workers have been underpaid and overworked, but the guides will help make everyone aware of their rights.

A North Canterbury dairy farmer who has helped to set up a local advice service for immigrant workers has also welcomed the guides.

Sharron Davie-Martin farms in the Amuri basin where she estimates 60 to 70% of the dairy farm workforce come from overseas. The guides have drawn on a local initiative in which she was involved - a welcome pack of basic information for new migrant workers and their families.

"When you employ someone from New Zealand they do things the same way we do," she says, "whereas if you employ someone from, say, the Philippines, they might have been milking six buffalo and then they come to a 1000-cow farm with machines and it's all very different."

One booklet is for migrants to read before they come to New Zealand and another is for prospective New Zealand employers of migrants.

The information packs will also be available next month in Tagalog, for Filipino workers, and Spanish, for South American workers.