National | Fruit

RSE worker cap increased, workers given sick leave

The government has increased its Recognised Seasonal Employer Scheme (RSE) workers cap by 3,000 places to 19,000 workers from countries in the Pacific bringing workforce relief to horticulture and vineyards.

It's a 19 percent increase from the previous season, says Immigration Minister Michael Wood, and is a call to get the balance right of incentives for local employment, more workers and improving their working conditions.

Wood says he is confident that workplace shortage relief will happen more as summer approaches.

The new cap was decided on in a tripartite setting, with both employer groups and unions present. This allowed for a discussion about both the number of workers and how ethical employment practices can be ensured.

Wood said that on top of the minimum wage requirement of $22.10, employers will be required to provide sick leave entitlement to RSE workers. It comes after the government was told of concerns about RSE workers' working conditions.

Agriculture Minister Damien O'Connor says the choice is a part of a well-balanced programme to increase export revenues and give New Zealand economic security.

“The RSE scheme is not designed to completely fill all roles in the horticulture and viticulture industries. This cap maintains pressure on RSE employers to continue recruiting New Zealanders where possible, improve pay and conditions for workers, and invest in automation," he says.