Job market tightens for Filipinos
By Alexia Johnston
The Ashburton Guardian
January 15, 2009
Skilled Filipinos will no longer gain easy employment access to New Zealands dairy industry, despite their reputation as hard honest workers.
Immigration New Zealand has tightened selection criteria Filipinos must pass before their visas are approved, a move that will have an instant impact on the industry in Mid Canterbury.
Filipinos must now gain level two in agriculture studies and prove they have had a minimum of two years work experience before they can obtain a work permit for employment on a commercial dairy farm.
For many Filipinos, completing studies towards a qualification in agriculture is not difficult, but gaining enough work experience in their homeland to meet New Zealands tough new legislation is.
Federated Farmers New Zealand vice chairman of the dairy section, Willy Leferink, said the move is unfortunate for both Filipinos and the dairy industry.
What happened was they (Immigration New Zealand) set up a new office in the Philippines because of the increasing number of people coming over from the Philippines. A new officer was appointed and instantly put screws on immigration demands to be more constrictive.
Until now farm managers have been able to slip workers through the system under the title of farm labourer, which was rarely queried because of the industrys shortage.
For the wrong reasons you could give them titles that they didnt really deserve just to get through the immigration rules you jumped through hoops. Mr Leferink said the recent influx of qualified Filipinos working on dairy farms had helped improve the industrys staff drought but now the problem was likely to resurface.
He said farm managers could now be forced to employ people who were not adequately suited to the job.
Some come right but others are hard to work with, so its a breath of fresh air (to work with Filipinos).
Qualified Filipinos have been making the move to Mid Canterbury dairy farms over the past two years, with more than 170 working in the district.
Elmer Del Rosario, an assistant herd manager at Ealing Pastures, is one of the lucky ones. He has avoided the criteria change by 10 months but still has a wife and young daughter in the Philippines.
Mr Del Rosario hopes they will be able to join him in Ashburton in the near future, a move that would add another person to the districts pool of skilled workers.
The couple both studied engineering in the Philippines. Mr Del Rosario also has a Bachelor of Science in Agriculture.
Their qualifications are recognised in New Zealand and Mr Del Rosario has also earned points on the New Zealand Qualifications Authority framework.
Mr Del Rosario is one of four Filipinos working at Ealing Pastures and their boss, dairy farm manager David Thomassen rates them among some of his best workers.
We are so impressed with the boys weve got. We were one of the first to take Filipinos on in the district so we werent sure how it would work out but its been fantastic.