Responses from growers criticised

Photo: ODT files
Photo: ODT files
Central Otago fruit growers are not only failing to respond to Kiwis applying for work but also doing a poor job of advertising for staff, a union representative says.

First Union organiser and Unions Otago member Sonja Mitchell said roles advertised did not give jobseekers enough information for an informed choice.

Delayed or non-responses to applicants was also an issue.

Multiple potential employees contacted the Otago Daily Times citing weeks-long waits for a reply to applications — if a reply was received at all — for jobs listed on orchards or vineyards throughout the region.

This week industry representatives admitted application administration was becoming a problem.

But, Ms Mitchell said it was only one of a raft of issues.

Unions Otago was unconvinced there was a shortage of people ready and willing to work and the feedback from people who were applying was proof of that.

The latest Stats NZ household labourforce survey said unemployment in Otago had increased to 5.1% and "under-utilisation" (underemployment) — or people in partial work — levels to 15.4%, she said.

Employers seemed to offer conditions people could not afford or placed barriers in the way of them applying.

Ms Mitchell implied the industry had become over-reliant on overseas workers and lackadaisical over employing Kiwis.

"Then [they] make a case for bringing in foreign workers and/or partially opening the borders, thereby expanding the pool of people needing work."

When Unions Otago members looked at horticulture and viticulture jobs in Central Otago on the Work the Seasons website they saw "obvious hurdles".

There was minimal information supplied about the jobs on offer, many did not describe minimum hours of guaranteed employment, which days, hours, and times of work, nor the duration of season, Ms Mitchell said.

Pay-rates were largely not advertised; those that did only guaranteed minimum wage.

While some offered accommodation no other information was provided, such as who paid for it, nor did they specify which "Central Otago" location.

To claim Kiwi workers were not interested in jobs that were not properly defined seemed "a bit disingenuous".

"When people go to the trouble of considering or applying for advertised jobs, employers should be responding to applications in a timely way — to do otherwise risks wasting people’s time, effort, and good faith; and it isn’t a terribly convincing look when the sector is lobbying Government for the right to bring in more overseas workers during a Covid-19 pandemic."

Central Otago Mayor Tim Cadogan would not be drawn on the issue, instead referring the ODT to Central Otago Labour Market Governance Group chairman Stephen Jeffery for comment.

Mr Jeffery said the industry had just employed a labour market co-ordinator in Central Otago and that role might help alleviate the applicant backlog.

"In terms of individual growers and how they recruit, that is a far more complex issue."

He said there may have been some "miscommunication" within the industry, and there were differences in harvest start times.

That was something he would raise industry wide in Central Otago today.

Ministry of Social Development director industry partnership Amanda Nicolle said it encouraged employers to provide as much information as possible to job seekers on their advertisements, and to keep in touch with those who apply.

"We provide a suite of tools for employers to help them manage the recruitment process, including keeping applicants up to date," she said.

Like many job boards and notice board type sites in New Zealand, the listings available were user generated, she said.

jared.morgan@odt.co.nz

Comments

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Ahh unions, like the vultures they are, can't wait to jump (uninvited) into any employment bandwagon, just to get more fees paid into their coffers to hand on to their Labour cronies to try and win favourable government policy and interference.
Let the market worry about the market, go back under your rock

Who said anything about fees?? Your facile commentary aside, there is an issue with an industry that appears to be hooked on cheap labour. On one hand we keep hearing these are difficult "skilled jobs", that scandalously only attracts minimum wage! New Zealanders have applied for these jobs and are being treated with indifference.

One hopes that the whingers who started complaining about the lack of labour represent a minority of (presumably) hard working and organised businesses. If not, there is a real problems here - why are so many people (apparently) in horticulture unable to manage their staff requirements? Why has horticulture not dealt with a problem it has know about for some years? If most businesses are competent, then why are industry groups (A form of union for business owners!) asking for charity from the government (paid from your taxes).

Commercial groups like to tell us how important they are to our society, so everyone has a vested interest in asking questions how business is conducted, especially if you're asking for a public handout. If we followed your advice about letting the market deal with this, this industry will go bankrupt.

So ... by your "logic", it is fine for the "market" i.e. the growers and business owners, to lobby &promote their "lack of workers" "give us help" "open the borders" "NZ workers don't want to work hard" "Give us subsidies" etc. By your logic, it is despicable &unwelcome for anyone representing workers to promote the workers' issues?
Actually, by joining a union and by approaching a union with their concerns, unions are DEFINITELY invited to speak up in the media. By their definition, they are here to create a united voice for disenfranchised lone workers. Without the "vultures" you talk about, you'd be working 70 hour weeks with no toilet breaks ... Unless you are the "master"/"entrepreneur" who wants to pay minimum wage &keep the minimum wage under a liveable amount ... because your riches r created by making people work for less than they can live on with dignity.
The "vultures" are business people who are anti-union & lobby against paying higher minimum wages. Really: those "business people" LACK skills to run a successful business model. They only profit by robbing workers of a dignified wage. With govt propping up owners' profit by paying WFF so workers can eat.

The vultures here are the growers. They have been lying through their teeth trying to get their preferred solution which is cheap immigrant labour that will accept the sub standard accommodation provided and can be exploited. Let the market worry about the market indeed, and that means the growers have to deal with a Labour shortage which means the price of Labour increases. The growers are happy enough with the market when it favours them but the moment it has an impact on their exorbitant profits they put their hand out for taxpayer assistance.
They are selfish, greedy, liars and they are not part of the team of 5 million.

If I understand the comment, if you want the market to worry about the market then why have we got government assistance being asked for by the industry and taken by the industry. Wet days are part of the industry - growers need to realise that to get produce picked on fine days then having them around ready although a wet day is part of the costs of harvest - not the taxpayer. And RSE workers are guaranteed a minimum season of guaranteed hours unlike kiwi workers, they also get accomodation organised, and travel to work and I understand paid extra from the start although some are new out each season. what the industry provides to and accepts for overseas workers, they will not provide for our own, NZers.

All this screaming about labour shortages is nothing more than rich farmers seeking government handouts, again, and again, and again.
There is obviously no shortage of workers, but they want workers they can exploit and treat like slaves, that increases their profits which is all that they care about.

Agreed.

During WW II this was all sorted by 'manpowering'.
Put simply, there is a problem of scale. Most orchardists are small-holders, they require pickers for a short period when the crops they have tended all year are exactly ready. So they may require 10 to 20 people for perhaps 10 days when nature, and the market, says the fruit is ready.
Coordinating across the industry requires broadscale control. Backpackers with flexibility have the needed capacity. Work here, runs out, get passed to another orchard. Pacific Islanders mostly work the big orchards where they are reliable (likely from the same community).
Given the duopoly perhaps orchardists need to be guaranteed a price to cover costs, then consumers can pay for what they are eating?

I'm not sure the crisis is bad enough to warrant "manpowering". This is a minor problem compared to those faced during WWII.
When you break it down the problem is caused by growers not wanting to put their hands in their pockets and affect their profits, instead the taxpayer to subsidise them, bail them out. Stated simply: the growers want socialism, they want to spread their potential losses over all of us.
No, I think not. The free market can solve this problem that the growers have created for themselves, solve it easily, they just have to put their hands in their pockets and pay for it.
No need for wartime crisis, socialist rules just yet.

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