FIRST Union’s Denise Roche is calling on the Coalition Government to reassess its Recognised Seasonal Employer (RSE) scheme as labourhire companies continue to use the RSE scheme to exploit migrant workers and undermine working people in New Zealand.
The concerns come after a number of companies in horticulture have continued to claim a worker shortage and have requested to bring in more workers under the RSA scheme (figures can be provided upon request).
FIRST Union’s Transport, Logistics and Manufacturing Organiser Denise Roche says working people are not attracted to jobs in horticulture because the seasonal work lacks job security and the industry is rife with employers who breach basic employment standards.
“There’s not a shortage of workers, there’s a pay crisis. In other industries with insecure work, employees are paid more in recognition of this. It’s also hard, labour-intensive work so the pay needs to match this. It’s a very successful export industry, give workers a bigger share of the pie and make it worth their time away from family and friends. Then there won’t be a shortage.”
Ms Roche says it’s blatantly obvious that it’s a pay crisis, not a worker shortage when you consider the industries making the claim.
“Why is it that the companies claiming a worker shortage are the companies paying low wages? We know the industry is rife with labour-hire companies or companies acting as labour-hire companies. This is something we should be very concerned about, especially considering the history of exploitation and human trafficking in horticulture.”
She adds that the scheme drives down wages for all working people in New Zealand.
“We welcome migrant workers to New Zealand; we want them to have good working conditions just like everybody else. The problem is that their isolation and lack of access to information on employment rights makes them vulnerable to being used as pawns to reduce wages overall for everyone. Employers who apply for the RSE scheme are basically saying, ‘We have failed to meet local standards of employment so we would like to bring in migrant workers who may already have been exploited in their home country and may not have the power to challenge or genuinely negotiate their conditions of work.”