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Farmers left with slim pickings.

Farmers left with slim pickings.

Fresh from a recent Labour Inspectorate operation, the kiwifruit industry of the Bay of Plenty has been left red-faced with a disappointing result from the audit. With a focus on labour hire contractors, huge gaps emerged between what workers are entitled to receive and what they have been receiving, to the point where more than half of the employers audited were failing to meet minimum employment standards.

The issues uncovered in the audit were summed up by the Labour Inspector regional manager, Kevin Finnegan, in his comment that this industry is in a period of such growth that there is now a record level of demand on migrant labour. Migrant labour and shortages of skilled labour are not isolated to kiwifruit farmers with DairyNZ calling for the Government to rethink changes to immigration policies.

DairyNZ reports the dairy farming sector relies on skilled people from overseas who are wrongly classified as lower-skilled. The changes to the working visas for this sector will mean workers must leave New Zealand at the end of three years leaving a hole in skilled employees of the sector.

Skilled labour shortage.

The issues faced by the dairy farming sector, as well as those uncovered by the audit into the Bay of Plenty kiwifruit growers, highlights a widening gap between the workload and the skilled workforce needed. The level of growth in the agricultural sector is facing an uncertain future with changes to immigration policies.

What does this mean?

While employers desperately search for skilled staff, the recent examples in the kiwifruit and dairy farming sectors highlight the zero-tolerance policy from government agencies policing employment relations across New Zealand. The penalties go further as employers that breach employment standards will face stand down from being able to recruit skilled migrants for six months, 12 months, 18 months, or two years depending on the severity of the breach.

Employers across every sector are reminded that minimum standards must be met and there is no excuse for failing to provide basic entitlements to every employee. However, as employers continue to work harder to comply with minimum standards, changes to immigration and the impact on skilled migrants remains uncertain. Give us your opinion by emailing [email protected].

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