A scheme allowing Pacific workers short-term work on New Zealand orchards and farms is under fire from a human rights lawyer.
He also confirmed that the current cap of 14,400 Recognised Seasonal Employer (RSE) Scheme workers would remain in place for the next year.
This is positive news, and adds to the additional movement of a plane-load every fortnight under the Border Exception 2.0. However, there is rising industry concern at the likely shortage of RSE workers for the next peak tasks leading into spring and summer.
A recent study of New Zealand-based RSE workers’ interest in receiving Covid-19 vaccinations revealed that of the 6,500 RSE worker respondents, over 50 percent were interested in repatriating, thus requiring a vaccine to meet their home country requirements. If this repatriation rate is achieved, industry estimates there would be under 7,000 RSE workers in New Zealand in March 2022, approximately half the current cap.
Taking this into account, industry’s request for Government to consider quarantine-free travel to New Zealand from Covid— free RSE sending countries becomes even more important. New Zealand Winegrowers continues to work alongside Horticulture New Zealand and the other industry groups to make progress in these areas, and have developed an industry ‘blueprint’ for Government to consider.
NZW have also raised the issue of the flow of skilled RSE workers to Australian schemes, where they have longer visas, no cap and no quarantine, combining to make Australia a favoured destination ahead of New Zealand.
The Minister updated conference attendees, saying the review of RSE policy has been postponed until 2022. The key areas under discussion were the cap, the allocation method and considering the scope of RSE activities, including whether wineries could be added. NZW will be ready to engage on these issues when the review restarts.
Long-stay RSE workers have been away from family and communities for much longer periods than normal, and have worked tirelessly to help make sure our industry continues to produce quality grapes to make New Zealand’s world-class premium wine. The RSE employers are doing their utmost to support these workers, and are taking extra steps to look after their workers’ wellbeing until there is more certainty on when they can return home and have a clearer pathway to return.
NZW wishes to offer our sympathies for the recent deaths in the RSE community and express our condolences to the RSE family and community both here and in the Pacific.