Seasonal labour rules amended
By LESLIE ANN HORGAN
The Southland Times
Friday, 01 February 2008
Immigration Minister Clayton Cosgrove yesterday announced changes to seasonal worker regulations but some cherry growers say the quick-fix has been too slow.
Problems with the Government's Transitional Recognised Seasonal Employer Scheme flared before Christmas, with many Central Otago orchardists crying out for workers to pick cherries. And, since then orchardists have pressured the Government to make changes to the scheme to attract workers.
The changes announced yesterday mean workers would no longer be tied to a particular employer and can follow the harvest trail throughout a region.
Roxburgh cherry grower and Summerfruit New Zealand executive member Gary Bennetts said: “I'm glad to hear that the Government are finally taking notice of what the people are saying but it's all too late for us.
“We told them the scheme wasn't going to work and pleaded with them to change it right from the outset, but all of that fell on deaf ears.” There were still cherries on the trees but by the time the new changes come in on February 12 it would be too late to pick them, Mr Bennetts said. “It's already too late to pick them now, they are too ripe for any market,” he said.
However, the February 12 deadline was good news for pipfruit growers who were worried labour shortages could reek havoc on the apple harvest which begins in Central Otago in March.
Pipfruit New Zealand services manager Gary Jones said the biggest problem with the legislation was the lack of portability of the permit and that main issue has been solved.
“Now workers can follow the harvest trail for the duration of their permits.” Mr Jones said he thought the Government had done an amazing job.
“It's almost a record to get a policy through all of the various channels and approved so fast,” he said.
“It's a pity that some of the cherry guys had to be the ones to demonstrate that there was a problem with the laws. They were the canary down the mine I suppose, sniffing out potential problems for the rest of us.”