An urgent call for fruit pickers in Hawkes Bay attracted just 14 applicants.
A concerted effort to find fruit pickers in Hawke’s Bay saw just 14 people express an interest and has resulted in the declaration of a regional labour shortage . . .
Gary Jones of Pipfruit NZ said the low unemployment rate meant there was strong competition for workers.
“There are at least 350 registered vacancies at the moment. The real number is likely to be higher than that,” Jones. . . .
Monday’s declaration means visitors presently in the country who did not have a work visa would be able to apply for a variation to their visitor’s visa allowing them to undertake seasonal work in the horticulture/viticulture industries for 6 weeks.
“This will now enable us to access as many available seasonal workers as possible to help harvest our fruit crops in Hawke’s Bay. Once the season is over, employers will be looking to offer permanent jobs to suitable New Zealand workers,” Jones said.
Jones said pickers were paid “well above the minimum wage” ($15.75 an hour) and the pay for those working in the packhouses depended on experience. . .
Hawkes Bay isn’t the only place where orchards can’t get local staff.
An employer in another region offered transport for staff from neighbouring towns and provided a creche. He also offered bonuses to those who would work five days but still couldn’t get enough locals.
One reason some didn’t apply or started and didn’t stay was drug testing.
What to do about them is another issue for which there are no simple solutions.
But the business couldn’t afford the risk of accidents from drug impaired staff and the only way to ensure workers were drug-free was testing.
There may be other reasons locals won’t work but the employer had done everything he could to attract them.
That left him dependent on immigrants.
His business couldn’t survive without them and as the Hawkes Bay orchard experience shows it’s not an isolated problem.
If businesses can’t get locals who are willing and able to work, they need immigrants to keep their businesses in business.