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FIRST Union Says Horticulture Industry Must Pay Locals A Living Wage Too

FIRST Union says horticulture industry must pay locals a living wage too

FIRST Union says today’s announcement that the Government is allowing the horticulture industry to bring into the country 2,000 RSE workers if they pay them a living wage shows they can afford to pay locals the same.

Most local fruit pickers earn the minimum wage of $18.90 or just above, whereas RSE workers doing the same work alongside them will now be getting at least $22.10. The union is calling on employers to match the wage for locals to ensure equity between the two groups.

FIRST Union has over the past few weeks conducted a survey of members who have been made redundant, mostly former employees of The Warehouse, which shows only 4% would consider moving to work in horticulture for the minimum wage. This increases significantly to 31% when asked if receiving the living wage of $22.10 would change their mind.

This flies in the face of horticulture employers saying that money isn’t the issue and Kiwi workers are just lazy," says spokesperson Anita Rosentreter.

Seeka CEO Michael Franks told RNZ this morning that they are doing everything they can to get locals into the work, but Ms Rosentreter says FIRST Union has approached the company to negotiate a collective agreement containing better wages and conditions and there has so far been no cooperation. The two parties are meeting again on Monday to continue talks.

The Government has also announced subsidies for the industry, such as bonuses for workers who complete six weeks of work and up to $200 a week per worker for accommodation. Ms Rosentreter says the Government should have made this assistance conditional on employers paying all workers a living wage. "Why is the Government subsidising a minimum-wage industry that employs people on unlawful casual contracts whilst pocketing eye-watering profits?"

"Horticulture employers need to front up and fix the significant, ongoing issues in their industry in order to attract locals to the work - not just now but for years to come - and paying all workers a living wage is a wise place to start."

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