Wait – what? Migrant workers paid living wage but domestic workers NOT paid a living wage?


This. Is. Madness.

Unions question why local fruit-pickers haven’t been offered living wage, like foreigners

While it’s a good thing foreign workers being allowed in to pick fruit will be paid a decent wage, unions are questioning why the same generosity hasn’t been offered to locals.

On Friday, the Government announced 2000 additional recognised seasonal employer (RSE) workers would be allowed into the country early next year, despite ongoing COVID-19 restrictions.

Only about 4000 are presently in the country – far short of the usual 14,000, with growers threatening to leave crops to rot if a solution couldn’t be found. 

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Under the new plan, employers will have to meet the costs of managed isolation and quarantine (MIQ) for the workers, pay them at least $22.10 an hour, and pay them 30 hours’ worth of wages while they are in MIQ.

Let me start by saying that of course migrant workers should be given the exact same respect and workers rights of domestic workers. Exploiting them is a blight on our capitalism and seems to underpin almost every single industry in NZ that isn’t a public service, but we have reached an insane situation whereby migrant workers are getting BETTER conditions than domestic workers?

How on earth is this possible?

The intense focus on migrant work being exploited now the borders are shut has demanded better working conditions for them, but that seems bewilderingly have been at the cost of domestic workers not being offered the same deal!

The minimum wage is currently $18.90. The present living wage – the minimum needed to live a dignified life as set by the living wage campaign – is $22.10 per hour. 

Anita Rosentreter of FIRST Union said overseas workers deserve the living wage rate, but if employers had offered it to locals they might have more luck solving the worker shortage.

“I think it’s really demotivating when you have your employer telling you, ‘I’m willing to pay this person over here $22.10 an hour, but you’re not worth the same – you’re only worth minimum wage,” she told Newshub.

FIRST Union surveyed members recently, asking them if they were willing to upend their lives and go pick fruit for minimum wage – 96 percent said no. But for the living wage, about a third were keen.

This can only happen because we don’t have universal unionism that is able to ensure everyone is getting the same rates and benefits.

We need Unions with real muscle and sway over the entire employment landscape so that this madness can’t happen.

Better wages for all workers, not just the ones currently shaming an industry.

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  1. The question of “worth” is just an expression of power over the subordinate. Growers in the South have an idea of the North, and that’s that. They have an idea of Urban people, and that’s that. Nothing will change it because their view holds their entire identity and world view together. Without “scumbags” and “Lazy workers” they can’t be superior. Look at the latest stupidity: growers advertise locally, then reject locals, saying the crop isn’t ready to pick, but at the same time telling the government the crop is ready to pick give them international workers. Of course they will pay government costs, the government subsidises their operations. It’s a money-go-round designed to shut out NZders, simply for the purpose of indidivual grower egos. Meanwhile inthe background, angry confused retired urban boomers who have lost their identity of productivity, snarl at anything that moves. NZ is too small for our version of capitalism. It always was. Until it is replaced with a largely socialist economic engine, these personal and commercial problems will always be around. Thanks to Labour’s blindfold and earplgus, we have to wait for the growing industry to completely fail before anything can do done.

  2. This is government on the fly, something few if any do well. Partly because this pandemic has thrown up a bunch of issues no one considered 12 months ago it seems. And partly because NZ never had a doomsday plan even though such eventualities surely should have been considered by greater government planning, things like disease, earthquakes, disasters etc. That surely hasn’t happened in our government planning, ever, obviously .

    So it appears these guys in power right now do not anticipate either. Missed the not so subtle Newton’s third law of motion, that applies to most things in life – For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. Missed the housing time bomb, missed the linkage between that and poverty, missed the linkage between those issues and re-election.

    There MUST be clear air between those ministers dealing with Covid at the frontline of government which is distracting the living daylights out of the PM and the ministers left for business as usual. At the moment it looks like an uncoordinated mess by a bunch of academics, lawyers and career politicians who for those very reasons do not have a practical bone in their bodies!

  3. Check out the story on stuff.co.nz about emergency housing that mentions the government was using it for RSE Workers, displacing homeless mums with kids. Nice. These growers tell us they aren’t the villains and we’re envious of their “success”. If by that they mean the success of effectively being 30mins away from human trafficking, I’m not sure that’s something anyone but a villain would envy. As for the grubby NZ government having a hand it for a bob-each-way bet… Disgusting. But hey, be kind out there people.

    • Good points J.M. Remember government, industry and unions sanction kind human trafficking because is more important to the economy than looking after homeless ‘loser’ mums with kids and employing ‘lazy’ loser locals.

  4. Good points there @ Billy. Fifthly dirty little grubbers…

    The same sort of grubbers mentioned in the Sailors Prayer.

    ‘Oh Lord above, send down a dove,
    With beak as sharp as razors
    To cut the throats of them there blokes
    Wot sells bad beer to sailors’

    And the ‘bad beer’ is the shit attitude and wages they pay their fellow countrymen and women. And the ‘sailors’ are those same fellow country men and women.

    Fuck em.


    Sailor’s Prayer by Johnny Collins

    This dirty town has been my home since last I was a-sailin’
    But I’ll not stay another day, I’d sooner go a-whaling

    Oh Lord above, send down a dove,
    With beak as sharp as razors
    To cut the throats of them there blokes
    Wot sells bad beer to sailors

    Paid off me score and them ashore, me money soon was flying
    With Judy Lee upon my knee, and in my ear she’s lyin’

    Oh Lord above, send down a dove,
    With beak as sharp as razors
    To cut the throats of them there blokes
    Wot sells bad beer to sailors

    With me newfound friends me money spends, just as fast as winking
    But when I make to clear the slate, the landlord says: (“Keep Drinking!”)

    Oh Lord above, send down a dove,
    With beak as sharp as razors
    To cut the throats of them there blokes
    Wot sells bad beer to sailors

    With me pay all gone, me clothes in pawn and Judy set on leaving (“I’m leaving!”)
    Six months of pay gone in three days, but Judy isn’t grieving

    Oh Lord above, send down a dove,
    With beak as sharp as razors
    To cut the throats of them there blokes
    Wot sells bad beer to sailors

    When the crimp comes ’round I’ll take his pound, and his hand I’ll be shaking
    Tomorrow morn sail for the Horn, just as dawn is breaking

    Oh Lord above, send down a dove,
    With beak as sharp as razors
    To cut the throats of them there blokes
    Wot sells bad beer to sailors

    For one last trip from port I’ll ship, but next time round I’m swearing
    I’ll settle down in my hometown, no more I’ll go seafaring

    • Speaking of dirty grubbers what about he ones that got this: Harvey Norman took $12.7 million in the wage subsidy and has since posted a profit of $104 million.
      • Do you know of a company that has profited off the wage subsidy? Email zacfleming@newshub.co.nz
      The Warehouse Group, comprising The Warehouse, Torpedo7, and Noel Leeming, took $67.3 million and has since posted a profit of $44.5 million.
      SkyCity took $31 million and has since posted a profit of $66.3 million.
      Kathmandu Group took $6.2 million and has since posted an underlying profit of $31.5 million.
      Hallenstein Glasson took $5.1 million and has since posted a profit of $28 million.
      Fletcher Building took $67.6 million and while it posted a loss of $196 million, its recent earnings were up 55 percent and it expects to pay a dividend to shareholders next year.
      Foley Wines took $624,000 and has almost doubled its profits to $6.9 million.
      Only Fletcher Building, which laid off about 1000 staff after taking the subsidy, responded to Newshub’s interview requests. It said: “the subsidy only covered a portion of the significant losses our business incurred.”
      In comparison, Briscoes, after posting a profit of $28 million half-year profit, has repaid the $11.5 million it took through the wage subsidy and it did not make any staff redundant.
      “It was always our thought to repay it,” Briscoes CEO Rod Duke told Newshub, “We just believe it’s the right thing to do.”
      The Finance Minister says he will not try to recover the wage subsidy from businesses who have since turned the taxpayer money into private profits.
      “It becomes a moral issue for that company, can they look themself in the mirror and say ‘Yes we still needed that?’ That is up to them.”
      The Prime Minister has previously labelled it “morally wrong” and National Party leader Judith Collins said if she won the election she would change the law to recover the subsidy.
      Now is this the Judith who uses her diversity of thought it appears she didn’t use her diversity of thought when she hired Granny Moss for the Oranga Tamariki CEO. And for Judith to talk about morals what about her dirty politics behaviour.

  5. The growers also get money back from the acomdation costs they deduct from the wages of the workers, often outrageous amounts each person. Sometimes facilities are ok, mostly they are beyond basic. They don’t want NZers because they are not as fast pickers either, due to lack of expertise and also desperation. Often the Pacific pickers are run by a manager who can speak English, often a relation. They have the power over who can come here to work from the villages, and this manager is the one who deals directly with the growers. The Pacifica manager has a lot of power, often acts as a kind of slave driver on behalf of the growers and can be corrupt too as they are the ones who pay the pickers, who don’t speak English and are not able to manage arranging bank accounts etc…The pickers are really at the mercy of this power broker, who is usually a scary asshole (often chosen by the grower too), because they need the money this work provides. The grower needs an enforcer type as manager to organise the pickers. A system ripe for extensive abuse of pickers and difficult to monitor. Pickers from the islands don’t complain at bad work conditions or treatment. The grower just wants the fruit picked.

  6. Maybe the government is giving the growers an option. Have your imported labour, at a higher wage, incur the costs of quarantine while paying wages during this period. Or hire the cheaper, local alternative.

    While I can understand that imported workers can be useful to growers in more remote regions, it would say a lot about how much growers “gain” from foreign workers if they are happy to pay the costs over local labour.

    • Exactly. Yet cherry picking who gets to have the minimum wage is rotten. All for one and one for all. Will the economy or small businesses really suffer if all workers received the living wage? Bullshit. Give tax breaks to small businesses and tax the rich appropriately to get that money back into govt coffers.

  7. This has the same odour as the two-tier benefit system invented for Covid sufferers. Surely breaches employment law, at the very least equity, fairness and good faith.

  8. I grew up on my family’s apple orchard, and in my younger days worked a few years as an apple picker and thinner for neighbouring orchardists. I agree that the reason we can’t find NZ pickers when we used to be able to is because it used to be paid well compared to other jobs in the area, and it no longer is. A big part of the reason has to be that we now have Pacific workers who are willing to work for much less.
    However, in fairness to the growers, there is not nearly as much money in it now as there was, and small orchards like my family’s are no longer viable.
    I can understand also that growers would rather have Pacific workers now because inexperienced people are quite useless as apple pickers. When you take inexperienced people on, you are really hoping they will come back next year, which won’t be happening for most NZers even for $22 an hour, as it is very hard work (Good pickers could make $200 a day back in the ’80s-’90s when that was worth much more). It might be that orchards today just can’t afford to pay well but if an industry can’t support itself it needs to be phased out. Something else will take its place.

    • Good points. But NZ also seems to be a leader of flogging horticultural workers and expectations are ridiculous for a long term industry to be viable aka minimum wages, poor overpriced accomodation, 60 hour weeks, short term in the middle of nowhere. NZ horticulture beat the South Africans apparently for productivity and the Kiwi horticultural industry leaders never stop complaining.

      In the old days local horticulture was smaller and employed local teenagers and the local community, backpackers and the unemployed. They were more welcoming for anyone to join in. Now they are bigger, and want a human production line that can’t speak English very well as a bonus. The community aspect is missing from the more aggressive orchards.

    • Yes it is true that it’s hard for the small operations to keep their head above water because they are not getting enough for their fruit, and in fact they do go to the wall. The whole system needs a good look at, because fruit is not cheap in the shops. What has changed since you were a kid I wonder where local orchardists could make a good living and the community pitched in as good money, relatively, could be made. Now, it’s an imported endentured kind of deal going on where NZers are rejected as workers. Not that I disagree with Pacific people getting work in NZ, we in fact need to be much more helpful and inclusive to the Pacific and Winston Peters was bang on about that.


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