9 Mar 2010

Pacific Is workers lift horticulture productivity

4:57 pm on 9 March 2010

The Department of Labour says temporary workers recruited from the Pacific Islands have lifted productivity levels across the horticultural sector.

The Recognised Seasonal Employer scheme was devised to cover labour shortages in the horticulture and viticultural sector. It replaced the seasonal work permit scheme,

The Department of Labour reviewed the 2007/08 season when the scheme was first implemented.

Its report says the difficulties caused by the different aims of employers and Pacific states in the first year have been sorted by better selection and education of workers.

Immigration Minister Jonathan Coleman says employers have access to a reliable seasonal workforce while the Pacific Island workers get economic benefits and increased skills.

Mr Coleman says he hopes stories of apples rotting on the ground because of a lack of pickers are a thing of the past.

Teething troubles

The report did highlight teething problems in the initial years of the scheme's introduction.

It says both growers and staff experienced problems as many of the workers were not well prepared for the sort of work that they would be expected to do in New Zealand, and many did not have a good understanding of the expenses they would face. Some were unhappy with the money they earned.

The report also points out that some growers were unprepared to meet the expectations of the pastoral care that the workers needed, with some larger employers in particular describing it as onerous.

However, the report concludes that employers in the horticulture and viticulture sectors have greater access to a reliable, stable, seasonal workforce and that Pacific workers benefited from the economic and skill development aspects of the scheme.