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Ignorance no excuse for law-breaking farmers

Ignorance no excuse for law-breaking farmers

The results of an investigation into farm employment practices shows there is something seriously wrong in the sector, and it is not credible for Federated Farmers to claim it can ride to the rescue, Labour's spokesperson on Labour Issues Andrew Little says.

After visiting 44 farms labour inspectors found 31 to have breached basic employment laws, including an underpayment of $6000 in wages from one farmer.

"New Zealand has one of the most liberal employment law regimes in the world, so it is disappointing that one of the sectors in our economy held up as hugely successful should be so lax at observing the basics.

"Having a written employment agreement is not hard, and observing it should be seen not as a grudging chore but as showing respect for your farm workers.

“Federated Farmers’ excuse that farmers are ‘poor’ at paperwork and that calculating wages can be ‘a bit confusing’ is just laughable.

"Correspondence that I’ve received indicates that some of the failures by farmers towards their farm workers are a result of sheer bloody-mindedness rather than ignorance.

"Farm workers should not have to rely on Federated Farmers for protection given it advocates for the interests of farm owners, and equally they shouldn't have to rely on periodic reviews by labour inspectors.

"The government should assist a relevant worker's organisation to provide advocacy and support for farm workers so that a healthy culture of observance and enforcement can develop,” Andrew Little said.

ends

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