Rather go hungry than go to work

The Ministry of Social Development has today declared a seasonal labour shortage across the Bay of Plenty, where an additional 1,200 people are needed to pick and pack an extra 20 million trays of kiwifruit this season.

This allows foreigners on tourist visas to apply for a variation which allow them to work.

The seasonally adjusted unemployment rate is 4.4% .

Some of those people must be in the Bay of Plenty and able to work so why aren’t they?

Kiwifruit company Apata employs more than 1000 people and will harvest and store about 10 percent of the region’s kiwifruit this year.

Managing director Stuart Weston told Morning Report about 60 percent of his staff were locals, with the rest made up of workers from the Pacific and backpackers.

He said he did not think raising the pay rate would attract more local labour.

“We think that we’ve really reached the very limits of what’s available ready and willing to work, irrespective of the money.

“And that’s evidenced by the fact that already [Work and Income New Zealand] have a system of stand down if people choose not to work in our sheds and inexplicably people will choose to go hungry rather than work in a packhouse.” 

He said the agency had been working hard to attract people to the industry but it had been having “decreasing levels of success”.

“We’re sending vans to Murupara, Tokaroa, Whakatāne and Rotorua – we’re just trying to reach out further and further to capture people who wish to work,” Mr Weston said.

Working with kiwifruit was hard work, and people who have been on an unemployment benefit struggled to cope with full-time work and could be unreliable, he said.

We visited a pack house earlier this year.

Our host told a similar story of going to great lengths to get locals to work including transport to and from work and a creche for workers’ children.

But if people prefer going hungry to work, what more can employers do?

8 Responses to Rather go hungry than go to work

  1. adamsmith1922 says:

    Reblogged this on The Inquiring Mind.


  2. Marc Sparks says:

    Clearly Socialism has failed to deliver workers to the work…..surprize surpruxe


  3. Roj Blake says:

    He said he did not think raising the pay rate would attract more local labour.

    here’s a novel idea – drop the thought experiment and offer higher pay, it just may work.

    …inexplicably people will choose to go hungry rather than work in a packhouse.

    Evidence? Or is this more speculation, more bennie bashing?


  4. Roj Blake says:

    Marc Sparkless, this is clearly a case of capitalism failing. Under capitalist theory shortages lead to increased prices, so why isn’t the price of labour being increased to encourage more supply in the marketplace?


  5. Paranormal says:


    Roj,You are right that in a capitalist system shortages lead to increased prices that increase supply. The problem is the businesses are competing with the government to attract workers.

    Workers are happy to sit on the benefit at comfortable existence levels than earn more for greater effort.

    In fact it was a Liarbour government that created this problem by removing the ability for those on a benefit to transition between seasonal work and the benefit without penalty. But then you are probably too young and ideological to remember that….


  6. Roj Blake says:

    Workers are happy to sit on the benefit at comfortable existence levels than earn more for greater effort.

    And your evidence for this is what?

    As i said above, Whingeing Weston claims higher wages won’t attract more workers, but he hasn’t bothered to try offering higher wages, has he?


  7. Paranormal says:

    My evidence is from the real world experience as an employer. Just ask any employer, particularly those employing manual labourers (you know the ideal starting point for the unskilled coming off a benefit), and you might learn something.

    Clearly a shortage of workers whilst we have unemployment running at 4.4% should be all the evidence required. Bay of Plenty is 4.7% and Gisborne & Hawkes Bay unemployment is 8.8%. http://archive.stats.govt.nz/browse_for_stats/income-and-work/employment_and_unemployment/LabourMarketStatistics_HOTPSep17qtr.aspx

    Where is your evidence that offering higher wages will entice the indolent off the dole? And if they are enticed by higher wages, will they actually be able to provide the return to ensure the role at a higher wage is sustainable? You are the one engaged in a thought experiment.


  8. Roj Blake says:

    I was the GM for a hand car wash business in Christchurch, first one in New Zealand. We employed long term unemployed on minimum wage. Two were fired for taking a joy ride in a customer’s car, the rest of them stayed between 4 and 6 months. Everyone of them went onto a better job. OK, that is one example, it doesn’t prove a theory, but there are employers who like to whinge and employers who like to try working things out.


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