Recognised Seasonal Employer
A number of reviews of the programme and feedback from RSE employers, their workers and officials from both New Zealand and participating countries in the Pacific have all been extremely positive. Accordingly, MFAT has decided to continue with the programme subject to some minor changes. In this article I review the delivery of the first phase of the RSE Worker Training Programme, known as Vakameasina, and discuss the proposed changes.
Currently (November 2017), Fruition Horticulture (BOP) Ltd (the incumbent contractor) is in contract negotiation with MFAT for the delivery of Phase II. It is expected that after these negotiations are finalised Fruition will be contracted for delivery for another five years.
It is worth reviewing why we have the RSE scheme. It is easy to forget that in 2006, New Zealand was at ‘full employment’, there were simply not the workers available to harvest or prune crops. The horticultural and viticultural industries were desperate for seasonal labour to undertake these tasks. A working group established by Horticulture New Zealand interfaced with government officials and others to develop a solution. The solution was perfect: right on our doorstep are a pool of some of the world’s poorest people who could benefit from the opportunity to work in New Zealand. Figure 1 shows the relative GDP per capita for New Zealand, Australia and the participating countries in the Pacific.
The RSE scheme has enabled some of the underprivileged people from these Pacific nations to come to New Zealand, earn money to send home and learn skills and gain knowledge from their time in New Zealand. The programme is internationally highly regarded with the International Labour Organisation referring to it as an example of “world best practice” in terms of labour mobility.
MFAT looked at the RSE scheme as a perfect opportunity to add to the skills and knowledge gained by also providing funding for the workers to engage in Vakameasina in their downtime.
To date, the Vakameasina programme has been delivered to 6,383 workers. The current contract proposes that a further 441 workers are trained, a commitment that will be met with the influx of workers coming to harvest summerfruit and thin and prune apple, kiwifruit and mandarin orchards.
Workers have attended from all the participating countries of the Pacific, with the greatest number of attendees coming from Vanuatu. Figure 2 provides detail of the percentage of workers attending Vakameasina by participating country.
Figure 2 shows the percentage of workers who have come into New Zealand from the Pacific since 2007 matched with the percentage of those who have attended Vakameasina. The proportion of workers attending Vakameasina is largely in proportion with the number of workers who are coming into New Zealand from the various Pacific nations. The major exception to this is the number of workers from Vanuatu, many of whom have missed out on formal education in their country. As a result they are quick to accept an opportunity for learning when it is offered. Figure 3 shows the percentage of workers coming from the various participating countries since RSE began compared