18 June 2008

NZ’s seafood factories fishing for overseas workers

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Fishing factories in the Nelson region have been battling a labour shortage for some time now, and have asked the New Zealand Government to approve migrant workers to fill the gap, claims The Press.

Nelson and Marlborough, on the top of the South Island of New Zealand, are on the Labour Department’s current list of regions suffering from seasonal labour shortage.  Two major seafood companies in the area have applied for 100 immigrant workers to ease the labour shortage. 

Although he claims the labour shortage in the South Island region is acute, Director Andrew Talley of Talleys Fisheries has requested approval for 70 migrant workers from Asia or South America to work on his boats and processing plants.  He also said New Zealand residents will have priority for employment over workers with a New Zealand working visa, according to the news source. 

In Nelson last week, 300 Sealord workers were made redundant from its mussel factory.  Only some of these workers have been looking for employment in other fishing factories.

Chief Executive Sam Hobson of Aotearoa Seafood Ltd claims he has 20-30 positions ready for the taking.  He also said, according to The Press, factory staff in the fishing industry has a high turn-over rate, which causes great losses in training and recruitment fees. 

The call for overseas workers to emigrate to New Zealand has caused concern for Service and Food Workers Union Assistant National Secretary Neville Donaldson, who says the immigration policy restricts competition in the labour market and causes wages to go stagnant.  "In the last eight years we have seen wages stagnate because employers are using migrant labour to fill the gaps, which takes away from the workers’ ability to bargain," he said.

An Immigration spokeswoman Simone Olsen said companies need to prove they have exhausted the local supply of employment opportunities before hiring workers on New Zealand working visas.  She also added that any migrant workers must return home when their New Zealand visa permit expires.

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