Tuesday, 23 March 2021 09:55

Hort picking off meat workers

Written by  Peter Burke
Meat Industry Association chief executive Sirma Karapeeva. Meat Industry Association chief executive Sirma Karapeeva.

Some orchardists in Hawkes Bay are so short of people to pick their fruit that they are resorting to ‘poaching’ workers from the meat companies.

Rural News has been told that meat workers in the region are being offered more money than they getting at processing plants to pick fruit, with reports of high absenteeism at some meat processing plants as a result.

Meat Industry Association chief executive Sirma Karapeeva says a sustained labour shortage has been an ongoing issue for the meat industry for a number of years. However, she says this time round it’s a little bit different because other sectors are also experiencing similar shortages – particularly in the Hawkes Bay.

Karapeeva says her office has been told about the horticultural industry trying to attract workers from the meat sector to pick fruit.

“It’s just another complexity in the whole mix of what Covid is throwing at us,” she told Rural News. “The borders are closed and we can’t find extra workers, despite the idea that there are many New Zealanders who don’t have work due to Covid. We just can’t seem to attract them in the regions and into the industry.”

Karapeeva says while much has been made of the issue in Hawkes Bay, she wouldn’t be surprised if other regions were experiencing similar pressure.

“I know that there are whole bunch of people, who for example, who are trying to find halal workers and are struggling to get them.”

She says another complication is that during the summer break there were a number of university students who took up temporary roles in the processing industry. However, they have now gone back to university and left another gap in the labour force which that has compounded the problem.

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