Employers struggle for Chch staff

Select Recruitment managing director Karen Bardwell.
Select Recruitment managing director Karen Bardwell.
Christchurch's housing shortage, expensive rent and mediocre wages are deterring Otago people from heading north to seek employment.

Christchurch employers and recruitment agencies are calling for the Government to allow more overseas workers into the country to fill the swelling vacancies, from trades and professions through to unskilled staff, as the shortages take hold.

The estimated more than $20 billion Christchurch rebuild has been slower than expected in gaining impetus, largely because of wrangles over insurance assessments and payments.

Managing director Karen Bardwell, of Dunedin-based Select Recruitment, which has a Christchurch office and has successfully recruited from Ireland in recent months, says the lack of people deciding to head north has come ''as a bit of a surprise''.

''Everyone, and then we saw it ourselves, initially thought [Christchurch] employers would be paying a premium, but that's turned out not to be the case,'' Ms Bardwell said.

She said many ''temp'' workers on her books had advised her they had considered moving to Christchurch, but following their own scrutiny of the Christchurch market, they found wages were on a par with Otago, finding housing ''was a big issue'' and rental charges were ''at a premium''.

''The grass isn't always greener. There doesn't seem to be a mass exodus from Dunedin,'' she said.

Some of Christchurch's biggest employers have called for more unskilled immigrants to be allowed into the country to fill the vacancies. While the city calls for tradesmen, engineers and management level workers as the rebuild gets into full swing, some businesses say there is a similar need for those willing to do low-paid, unskilled work, TV One has reported.

Adecco Personnel area manager southern [all South Island], Teresa Moore, formerly of Dunedin, said there were more applicants from north of Christchurch than south.

Having worked in Dunedin for about 15 years, she said staff here were more loyal and tended ''not to jump to a new job on a whim''.

She noted many instances where Dunedin employers had offered staff positions in their Christchurch outlets.

Ms Bardwell said many technically skilled people from Otago had taken Christchurch positions, but they were in a pay band which allowed them to fly home to Dunedin most weekends.

She agreed with the call to allow more immigrants into New Zealand, having twice visited Ireland to recruit and during the past four months having placed seven of eight immigrants into Christchurch jobs.

At present, travellers under 30 years old from many countries can work for up to 12 months, but Ms Bardwell said that option should be opened up to older age groups.

Ms Moore agreed, saying the ''biggest change'' ahead for the industry was the Government decision on changing requirements for working visas.

Ms Bardwell said New Zealand industry was competing for immigrants, especially in the case of trades, with Australia's relatively healthy economy.

Trish Paterson, recruitment manager for Christchurch-based employment agency Ryan Recruitment, said many companies were struggling to fill positions that required no qualifications, or skills that could be learned on the job.

''It's not so much that [jobs] are not available, but in a lot of cases they are paying minimum wage. There are other employers paying more; even if it is only 50c per hour, people will move jobs for that,''she told TV One.

The company was even struggling to find people manage traffic at road works and employers needed to adjust their expectations, she said.

''The old attitude `if they want the job they have to fit in with us' was now unrealistic,'' she said.


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