Im­mi­gra­tion not a panacea for our prob­lems

New Zealand Truck & Driver - - Big Test -

How­ever, as the pub­lic per­cep­tion of im­mi­grants has hard­ened, Na­tional is pro­tect­ing it­self from po­lit­i­cal at­tack in an elec­tion year by tight­en­ing up on as­pects of im­mi­gra­tion pol­icy where it may be vul­ner­a­ble.

Such pol­icy change has a di­rect im­pact on our in­dus­try. In April, Im­mi­gra­tion Min­is­ter Michael Wood­house an­nounced changes to per­ma­nent im­mi­gra­tion set­tings, in­clud­ing the in­tro­duc­tion of two new re­mu­ner­a­tion thresh­olds for ap­pli­cants ap­ply­ing for res­i­dence un­der the Skilled Mi­grant Cat­e­gory.

One thresh­old is to be set at the me­dian in­come of $48,859 a year for jobs that are cur­rently con­sid­ered skilled. The other thresh­old, which is for those in jobs not cur­rently con­sid­ered skilled but are well paid, will be set at $73,299 a year or 1.5 times the me­dian in­come. Th­ese changes come into ef­fect on Au­gust 14.

The Gov­ern­ment also has a pro­posal on the table that in­cludes changes to tem­po­rary mi­gra­tion set­tings, with the goal of more tightly man­ag­ing the num­ber and set­tle­ment ex­pec­ta­tions of new mi­grants com­ing to NZ on Es­sen­tial Skills work visas.

The pro­posal as it cur­rently stands in­cludes the in­tro­duc­tion of re­mu­ner­a­tion bands to de­ter­mine the skill level of an Es­sen­tial Skills visa holder. Th­ese bands align with the re­mu­ner­a­tion thresh­olds be­ing in­tro­duced for the Skilled Mi­grant Cat­e­gory ap­pli­cants. A max­i­mum du­ra­tion of three years for lower-skilled and lower-paid Es­sen­tial Skills visa hold­ers will be in­tro­duced, af­ter which a min­i­mum stand­down pe­riod will ap­ply be­fore they’re el­i­gi­ble for another lower-skilled tem­po­rary work visa.

There has also been a tight­en­ing of the rules around Es­sen­tial Skills visa hold­ers bring­ing their chil­dren and part­ners to NZ and align­ing that with the new skill lev­els and en­sur­ing that the length of the visa aligns with peak labour de­mand for sea­sonal oc­cu­pa­tions.

The new poli­cies are de­signed ex­plic­itly to in­di­cate a NZers-first ap­proach from the Gov­ern­ment and it’s ex­pected that em­ploy­ers will do all they can to train and em­ploy NZers.

This, of course, is fine in the­ory – but for in­dus­tries such as road trans­port, hos­pi­tal­ity and the hor­ti­cul­tural and agri­cul­tural sec­tors there just aren’t the num­bers of Ki­wis in the right place at the right time… and will­ing to do the work.

The Gov­ern­ment still as­sures us that em­ploy­ers will be able to re­cruit tem­po­rary mi­grant work­ers. The prob­lem for our in­dus­try is that the labour mar­ket test of demon­strat­ing that there are no NZers avail­able to do the job is not easy.

Ever since truck driv­ers were re­moved from the Im­me­di­ate Skills Short­age List in 2014, RTF has vig­or­ously ad­vo­cated for their re­in­state­ment. Re­gret­tably, the ma­jor­ity of politi­cians have be­come con­vinced that pro­vid­ing jobs, hous­ing and in­fra­struc­ture for Ki­wis can only be achieved by damp­en­ing de­mand in those things, and im­mi­grants are an easy tar­get.

RTF will con­tinue to en­cour­age po­lit­i­cal par­ties to re­assess their poli­cies on im­mi­gra­tion and the value of mi­grant labour in in­dus­tries such as ours. The moral of the story, how­ever, is that to rely on the whims of politi­cians is a largely un­pro­duc­tive strat­egy. The driver short­age will only ef­fec­tively be solved by en­cour­ag­ing and in­cen­tivis­ing a larger do­mes­tic work­force that can be sus­tained and ex­panded to meet the re­quire­ments of NZ’s fu­ture freight task.

T&D

The gala NZ Road Trans­port In­dus­try Awards are the per­fect way to ac­knowl­edge out­stand­ing achieve­ment in our in­dus­try.

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