Monday, 29 April 2019 10:28

Follow the rules, or suffer consequences

Written by  New Zealand Winegrower Board

The Government has made ‘fairer’ working conditions a priority, including a focus on exploitation of workers.

We recognise that the treatment of workers is also of importance to our members. New Zealand Winegrowers has developed tools and guidance to help members understand and meet their obligations, as well as those who may be working on their behalf to provide labour. We are actively considering how we can respond to support the industry in an increasingly tight labour market so that we remain an industry of choice and can be an exemplar of good practice in the primary sector.

In addition, New Zealand Winegrowers is firmly focused on building the reputation of the wine industry as the industry of choice to work and build a career in. 

We have begun work on a Workforce Action Plan to help identify how the industry can best attract, retain and develop our workers. 

We expect to have more information to share with members in the coming months.

When exploitation occurs and touches our industry, we must take action to ensure that our members know this is not acceptable and what they can do to stop it occurring again. The below message from our Chair, John Clarke, was a timely reminder of our obligations after the recent breaches in Marlborough. 

In January we learned that another viticultural labour contractor has been convicted for breaching minimum employment standards. 

Although it was not a grower or winery, headlines like Marlborough wine business fined $120k for exploiting vulnerable migrant workers reflect badly on the whole of our industry.

As a grower, and as Chair of New Zealand Winegrowers, I believe we need to own this problem and make sure our colleagues are owning it too. My key message at last year’s Bragato Conference was that in our businesses we all need to follow the rules, or consequences will follow. 

If breaches of minimum employment obligations keep occurring in our sector we risk losing public and government support. That will hurt us all.

The vast majority in our sector follow the rules. But irresponsible contractors would not threaten our industry’s reputation if every winegrower actively checked that their contractors are complying with the basics of employment law. Similarly, if we think that one of our neighbours has engaged a dodgy contractor, we should have a quiet word with them and encourage them to check.

The simplest way to vet your contractors is to engage one that is already formally accredited and audited in some reliable way, for example:

• with current status as a Recognised Seasonal Employer under the RSE Scheme,

• with current membership as a Master Contractor, or

• with a current certification to NZ GAP/Global GAP and GRASP.

But even if your contractor does not have a certification, it is not hard for you to check yourself. I make a point of doing this with all my contractors. Below, I’ve included an example of how to quickly check that your contractor is following the rules.

If your contractor can’t, or won’t provide you with evidence that they are meeting the minimum legal standards, then that’s a definite red flag. You are likely exposing yourself and the whole industry to risk.

New Zealand Winegrowers provides detailed guidance about employment requirements and engaging contractors in our Working for You guide (available on the member website). More information about employment obligations is also available on the MBIE website. And the NZW Advocacy team are always available to answer your specific questions. So if you have a concern or are uncertain about an employment issue don’t be afraid to call them.

Let’s all do what we can to ensure the wine industry remains an industry of choice for workers.

How to spot-check that a contractor is meeting minimum employment obligations

Pick a random group of your contractor’s workers and require your contractor to show you evidence that they each meet these minimum legal requirements:

Written contract: Each worker has signed a written employment contract. If they are a seasonal worker, this should normally be a fixed-term contract, not a casual contract. 

• Don’t be fobbed off by claims of privacy issues: you are not asking to read the contract.

• All you need to see is that there is a written contract, and that it has been signed by the worker.

Entitled to work: Each worker is entitled to work in New Zealand for the duration of their contract.

Proper records: Their time/piece work, wage, and holiday records are being systematically kept.

• Ask the workers themselves if they agree the records are accurate, or if they have any concerns.

Minimum pay: They each always receive at least the minimum hourly wage (including those on piece rates), and are getting holiday pay for working on public holidays.

Paid breaks: They are given paid rest breaks and, if on piece rates, that these are paid at least at their minimum pay rate.

If your contractor resists, you can assure them that these spot checks are now the standard, expected industry practice in the New Zealand wine industry.

More detail on all of these requirements can be found in the NZW Working for You guide to employment requirements and engaging contractors, available on the member website

 

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