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Farmers need more commitment to workforce building

CTU MEDIA RELEASE 02 September 2008

Farmers need more commitment to workforce building

"Workforce shortage issues will continue in the rural sector unless farmers and growers start to develop long term strategies for growing their own workforces," Council of Trade Unions president Helen Kelly said today.

"The admission today by Southland dairy farmers that they are paying New Zealanders $35,000 per year for fifty to sixty hour weeks is shameful, particularly at a time when they are pressuring Government to relax immigration requirements."

Yesterday wine growers were also complaining about the cost of labour whilst harvesting record crops.

"The dairy farmers are openly admitting that New Zealand workers are available but that they turn them away because they are expecting $50,000 per year - hardly great riches for the long hours and hard work expected of them," Helen Kelly said.

"We are also concerned to hear that it is apparently easy for farmers to replace these workers by employing foreign workers simply to reduce wages. Our immigration policies exist to fill genuine skills shortages, not to replace New Zealanders seeking work and not to cut wages and conditions."

"New Zealanders are paying huge prices for dairy products and farmers are making more money than ever. It is an irony that farmers are happy to accept market demand as an excuse for higher and higher costs to consumers but don't accept it when it has the same impact on labour costs."

"It is time some of this money was committed to building a sustainable industry. This includes decent wages, training, prospects and conditions of work," Helen Kelly said.

ENDS

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