Oct 22, 2008
Contingency plans should be being prepared for a possible
reduction in the number of seasonal workers coming from overseas
to work in Marlborough vineyards this season.
The Recognised Seasonal Employment (RSE) scheme may be affected
by local political and business flow on consequences of the
international financial crisis – even though Labour
or National led governments may want ‘win win’
features of the young scheme to remain.
NZ First leader Winston Peters, on the election campaign
trail, has called generally for job opportunities to be available
to New Zealanders before new immigrants.
RSE was designed to enable employers in the horticulture
and viticulture industries to recruit from overseas to meet
labour shortages, if there are no New Zealanders available.
Marlborough wine industry employers, already grappling with
improvements to RSE, will be trying to assess changes in their
business outlook – and may attempt short term decisions
to invest in fewer Pacific Island workers.
Within months prospective employers will need to advise how
many seasonal workers they want to recruit, and individuals
will need to know if they have jobs pruning vines in Marlborough
A fortnight ago Marlborough wine industry spokesperson Gerald
Hope said he likes the idea of Pacific Island liaison officers
helping provide pastoral care under the RSE scheme. Under
the “continuous improvement” approach of NZ’s
Department of Labour (DoL) to the RSE, Marlborough wine interests
can use PI liaison officers to help sort out how they improve
arrangements for their seasonal workers.
Immigration minister Clayton Cosgrove said 78 percent of
the 4,641 of the RSE workers who came to New Zealand this
year were from Pacific Forum countries.
In his 30 September statement on changes to RSE, Mr Cosgrove
said DoL, which oversees the scheme, is “looking at
the merits of establishing liaison officers to assist with
effective communication between workers and employers and
pastoral care providers.”
Mr Hope since said at least one New Zealand based Pacific
Islands’ consultancy was making enquiries about offering
a pastoral care service on a basis yet to be formally proposed,
agreed and funded.
The wine industry wants to reduce the burden it currently
is expected to bear of both financing and providing the pastoral
care, and the making ready of Pacific Island seasonal workers
before they left the Islands Mr Hope said.
Ideally the Island governments and their backers should pay
to make workers ready he said. He preferred that the NZ government
help finance pastoral care contracts, such as are now being
mooted by consultancies who have seen a business opportunity.
Briefing papers released under the Official Information Act
from Labour Minister Trevor Mallard to Asia Pacific Economic
News in September said in supporting Pacific development,
NZAID is exploring support for targeted training for RSE workers,
“focusing first on basic, rights-based training (literacy
Immigration Minister Mr Cosgrove said on 30 September “There
will be improvements to pre-departure orientation information
for RSE workers so they will know what to expect upon arrival
in New Zealand.”
Mr Cosgrove said changes will be made to enhance pastoral
care planning. “In addition to existing requirements,
employers will need plans to ensure good cross cultural communication,
and effective and fair dispute resolution.”
Employers are required to show how they plan to address pastoral
care, including transportation, induction, accommodation,
access to personal banking, protective equipment, onsite facilities,
necessary language translation, and opportunity for recreation
and religious observance. Experience suggests, DoL said, there
are additional pastoral care challenges for which employers
need to consider and plan. These include supervision, care
and management of workers and cross cultural communication
at work and outside of work. Management of periods where work
is reduced, including aspects such as the impact on workers’
overall net income, budgeting to cover ongoing costs and out
of work activities also need to be added in employers’
plans. Provision of issues resolution processes has also been
acknowledged as necessary by the DoL officials.
A key benefit of liaison officers would be in providing assistance
when things go wrong. Some workers have reported they feel
uncomfortable raising issues with employers or other New Zealanders.
Liaison officers could facilitate early resolution of issues.
NZ RSE employers have the primary responsibility for responding
to employment and pastoral care issues. Some employers have
established “Councils of Chiefs”, who are respected
senior members of the workforce who represent the workers
with the employer.
Liaison officers could assist with orientation and induction.
They could have a role in ensuring workers understand the
terms and conditions of their employment and in managing workers’
expectations DoL said.
Planning was hard enough for stakeholders in the RSE scheme.
Political and business winds of change have made planning
that much harder.