New Zealand to welcome 3,000 more seasonal workers

Employers are also required to provide them with sick leave entitlements

New Zealand to welcome 3,000 more seasonal workers

New Zealand is welcoming 3,000 overseas employees after it increased the limit of its Recognised Seasonal Employer (RSE) Scheme. The latest increase is the largest one in over a decade, according to New Zealand's ministers, and officially raises the RSE cap to 19,000 workers.

"The additional 3,000 places is a 19% increase on the previous season and acknowledges the industry's current needs based on strong growth, and the lower number of working holiday makers onshore right now," said immigration minister Michael Wood.

Read more: Amazon to hire 150k seasonal workers ahead of holidays

The expanded cap will see overseas workers from participating Pacific countries provide workforce relief to the horticulture and wine sector.

"We are listening to industry and worked closely with horticulture and wine sectors to ensure we strike the right balance by incentivising local employment, bringing in further additional workers, and also requiring working conditions to be improved," Wood said.

However, even with the raised limit, agriculture minister Damien O'Connor stressed that employers should continue recruiting local workers.

"The RSE scheme is not designed to completely fill all roles in the horticulture and viticulture industries. This cap maintains pressure on RSE employers to continue recruiting New Zealanders where possible, improve pay and conditions for workers, and invest in automation," O’Connor said. 

Read more: What you need to know: Working Holiday Scheme and Accredited Employer Work Visas

Wood also announced that employers would be required to provide sick leave to RSE workers, following reports of poor living conditions for overseas workers who have arrived in New Zealand.

"The wellbeing of RSE workers is a priority for us, and we have worked with industry and unions to introduce a new provision, that employers will be required to provide a sick leave entitlement to RSE workers," Wood said. "That is in addition to the pre-existing minimum wage requirement of $22.10, which we introduced during the pandemic. We continue to work urgently with the industry and unions on further short-term improvements and employee safeguards to provide greater protections to workers. This work is in addition to our wider policy review to improve the RSE scheme for workers, as previously signalled."

Read more: Hospitality NZ and Tourism Industry Association welcome new working holiday and VISA rules

Businesses welcome the announcement

BusinessNZ said it welcomes the greenlight of 3,000 more overseas workers to provide relief for the horticulture sector. However, it also urged the government to look at the shortages in other 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," BusinessNZ chief executive Kirk Hope said in a statement. "The global war for talent has resulted in a very competitive international environment and New Zealand businesses are looking to source skills from the New Zealand labour market where that is possible. But international skills and labour will always and necessarily make up part of our labour market."

According to Hope, the country's immigration should be "functioning efficiently" to attract the needed talent amid "severe skill shortages in many industries."

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