Sunday News

Rules put that at risk


fixed term contract.

New Zealand Immigratio­n national manager Pacific spokespers­on Loua Ward said the Government decided to index

RSE minimum pay to be 10% above the minimum wage, to ensure RSE workers receive a fairer share.

It also provided incentives for the industry to attract and hire New Zealanders, and to invest in technology before hiring RSE workers.

“The number of RSE workers coming to New Zealand has continued to increase despite the RSE minimum pay threshold being in place,” Ward says.

“A minimum remunerati­on threshold is also consistent with immigratio­n rules for other industries, who are generally required to pay migrants at least the median wage (currently $29.66 per hour) under the Accredited Employer Work Visa.”

Aaron Jay says the RSE was set up first and foremost to support horticultu­re.

The minimum wage has increased

44% since 2017. Jay thinks that the wider impact of those increases on businesses needs to be better understood within government. “The flow-on effect will be the supermarke­t price of fruit and vegetables increasing significan­tly due to these costs and impacting everyone, especially our lower-income whānau.”

Changes to pay rates and sick leave were occurring before the Government had completed its policy review, HortNZ boss Michelle Sands says.

“HortNZ has pointed out that these changes put additional pressure on growers, many of whom have been affected by adverse weather events over the past season,” says Sands.

“We have also pointed out that workers should be paid the same rate for the same work.”

Meanwhile, Jay has been trekking back-and-forth from his Blenheim base to Wellington to lobby political parties.

His mission is to preserve the economics of the horticultu­re and wine industries, and protect the futures of seasonal workers some of them long-standing.

“Many of them have been returning to do seasonal work for our customers for up to 15 years, alongside our permanent staff who have been in the industry for well over 20 years.”

Horticultu­re NZ says the RSE scheme needs to be sustainabl­e for the horticultu­re and viticultur­e industries, as well as for the nine Pacific countries that are part of it.

New Zealand has capped the scheme at 19,000 workers for 2022/23 from the likes of Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu, Fiji, Vanuatu and Indonesia.

While there have been issues around poor treatment of some RSE workers, Jay says bad employers should be called out, rather than good employers being lumped in with them.

Hortus has a policy of putting workers into accommodat­ion Jay himself would live in, and that’s developed worker loyalty, he says.

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