This week saw some major changes around the Recognised Seasonal Employer (RSE) scheme, which since 2007 has allowed the horticulture and viticulture industries to recruit workers from overseas for seasonal work when there are not enough New Zealand workers.
This week the government announced it has raised the quota for the RSE scheme by 3000 this summer – the biggest increase in the programme for seasonal workers from the Pacific in over a decade. It has also ordered that employers must provide their workers with sick leave, RNZ reported this week.
Worker advocates warned employers must not be allowed to exploit the next wave of workers in the Recognised Seasonal Employers (RSE) scheme, with the Union suggesting that employers should be shut out of scheme if they break rules.
In another initiative, the Worker Protection (Migrant and Other Employees) Bill was announced which aims to strengthen current penalties for exploitation, introduce a new programme to educate migrants about employment rights and start a register of people and businesses found guilty of worker exploitation.
“We need to ensure we educate migrant workers so that they know their rights, better protect those who have been exploited by providing further access to support, and hold exploitative employers to account”, says Associate Minister for Workplace Relations and Safety, Priyanca Radhakrishnan.
Earlier in the week, the corporate lobby group BuisinessNZ welcomed the extra 3000 places for seasonal workers to help ease workforce pressure, and would like to see the same done for more sectors. “Hopefully by recognising the urgent need for more workers in the horticultural sector, the Government is also open to considering the shortages New Zealand is currently facing across all sectors and at all levels of employment.”
According to the group, skills and labour shortages were the top business concern of 102 businesses surveyed by the BusinessNZ Network in September.
Read more on this topic: Paying to work: Life as a seasonal worker – An account from a worker who left his job and wife in their small Pacific Island community to try working on the seasonal worker’s scheme in New Zealand.