National | Food

Call for seasonal workers to receive living wage

The Amalgamated Workers Union (AWUNZ) says the government should pay the living wage to seasonal orchard workers.

The living wage is the income necessary to provide workers and their families with the basic necessities of life.

AWUNZ General Secretary Maurice Davis believes seasonal orchard workers need an incentive to work.

“You’re working poor and that's the problem with industries like this,” Davis says.

“It's become bottom feeding type of industry and we need to lift the standard and lift it to where people actually have a bit of dignity in work.”

Every year growers struggle to meet their picking or harvest demands because of worker shortages.

“Orchards have two seasons the pruning and the harvesting,” says Davis.

“Essentially it's all entry rates stuff and because of the narrow window that you have because you can't control seasons.”

In November last year, a record 12,850 RSE (Recognised Seasonal Employer) workers from the Pacific Islands were employed.

“Open up the kaupapa for overseas workers and then everything's solved, then you have the problem again see,” says Employment Minister Willie Jackson.

“So we want to have a strategy that is about labour force in New Zealand first and foremost.”

“Nobody wants to give up a job to go and work there, or come off the dole, go and work there, then try and get back on the dole,” says Davis, “so somehow or rather we've got to find a way forward to keep workers working.”

Davis says a national standard needs to be implemented that addresses wages and working conditions.