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PCF Welcomes New Seasonal Labour Scheme

PRESS RELEASE
25 OCTOBER 2006

Pacific Cooperation Foundation Welcomes New Seasonal Labour Scheme.

The Pacific Cooperation Foundation welcomes the announcement by the Prime Minister at the Pacific Islands Forum in Nadi yesterday that employers in the horticulture and viticulture industries will be able to recruit significant numbers of people from the Pacific Island Countries for seasonal work from April 2007.

Speaking from Nadi, the Executive Director of the Foundation, Vince McBride, said he was delighted at the Prime Minister's announcement to Forum Leaders. "The policy has been warmly welcomed by Pacific Leaders as timely and of real benefit to their countries" said Mr McBride.

"I congratulate the government on this major initiative which has the potential to bring substantial economic benefits to both New Zealand and the Pacific Island Countries. This is definitely a win-win outcome - New Zealand employers will be able to recruit a reliable workforce instead of trying to get by using backpackers and working holiday makers. And significant numbers of people from Pacific countries will be able to take advantage of the opportunity to earn substantial amounts of money to take back to their home countries at the end of the season."

The future of the Pacific labour market was discussed at a conference organised by the Pacific Cooperation Foundation in June this year which brought together representatives from the New Zealand government, Pacific governments, employers, unions, NGOs and academics to discuss ways of bridging the gap between a shortage of labour in New Zealand industries - in particular horticulture and viticulture - and the growing surplus of labour in many Pacific Island Countries.

Mr McBride said one of the concerns expressed by Government to the conference was the need to avoid exploitation of workers from the Pacific and to ensure that seasonal workers did not become overstayers. "The conference concluded that these concerns could be dealt with through the appropriate design and monitoring of work schemes."

"Officials have clearly done a huge amount of work since the conference, paving the way for this important announcement by the Prime Minister in Fiji and the Ministers of Labour, Social Development and Foreign Affairs in New Zealand. Filling jobs in key industries provides an economic benefit for New Zealand and a development benefit for the Pacific Island countries involved."

Mr McBride said he was particularly pleased that the new seasonal work policy has not been linked in any way to trade concessions on the part of the Pacific Island Countries. "Today's announcement by Ministers is truly groundbreaking and underlines New Zealand's commitment to the Pacific and its status as a Pacific nation."

ENDS

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