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More flexibility for seasonal labour workers

Hon Clayton Cosgrove
Minister of Immigration

31 January, 2008 Media Statement
More flexibility for seasonal labour workers

Changes are to be made to seasonal work policies to enable workers on visitors' permits greater flexibility to move between employers and regions, the Immigration Minister Clayton Cosgrove said today.

Mr Cosgrove said the changes would fine-tune the Transitional Recognised Seasonal Employer Scheme (TRSE) scheme and the Variation of Conditions (VoC) for seasonal work that was agreed upon with industry in September 2007. As agreed with industry at that time, visitors working under the TRSE or the VoC scheme were tied to a particular employer, to prevent frustrations over workers leaving without notice to work for another grower and not remaining for the season.

However Mr Cosgrove said industry's position on this has now changed.

“Industry feedback following December’s cherry harvest in Central Otago is that restricting workers' mobility may be hindering efforts to recruit visitors for seasonal work, and that growers were finding it difficult to get enough workers to pick this year’s expected bumper harvests," said Mr Cosgrove. "It appears that some visitors are put off applying for VoC or TRSE work permits if they can't follow the harvest trail or get a sustained period of work from one employer."

Mr Cosgrove said both the policies would therefore be changed so workers were not tied to a particular employer. “VoC workers will be able to work for any horticulture or viticulture employer in an area where a seasonal labour shortage has been declared, and TRSE workers will be able to work for any TRSE employer (within their allocated number of workers),” Mr Cosgrove said.

While these changes will go some way towards alleviating labour shortages this season, other issues such as a lack of accommodation and transport options in some parts of the country will also need to be addressed by industry in order to ensure a sustainable solution is reached.

Mr Cosgrove said the government would continue to work with Pacific countries supplying workers to Recognised Seasonal Employers (RSE). “The RSE scheme is part of a long-term strategy put in place to bring experienced, reliable overseas workers to New Zealand each year to fill gaps in the seasonal workforce," Mr Cosgrove said. “The Department of Labour will monitor the situation to ensure the right of workers to fair pay and conditions are protected, and border security issues are not compromised."

The revised policies are expected to be in place by 12 February, which will give certainty to industry and workers ahead of the major pipfruit harvest.


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