Farmers will pay more for essential staff as borders open

Immigration Minister Kris Faafoi said the government had taken steps to support the primary sector and its labor needs since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic.  (File photo)

ROBERT KITCHIN/Stuff

Immigration Minister Kris Faafoi said the government had taken steps to support the primary sector and its labor needs since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic. (File photo)

Farmers, desperate for staff, will end up paying essential workers up to $40 an hour when borders reopen.

The border opens to skilled workers vaccinated on March 13, but they must earn one and a half times the median wage.

Federated Farmers intensive winter grazing national spokesman Jason Herrick said the requirement would raise wages from $27 an hour for foreign staff now to $40 an hour.

“It’s just another attack on farmers and the primary sector,” Herrick said.

READ MORE:
* Federated Farmers president says unfinished immigration paperwork could jeopardize dairy season
* Horticultural sector: reopening of borders comes too late
* MIQueue: only two of the 200 dairy workers walk through the door
* Residence Trail a boon for the stressed south

“Don’t get me wrong, it’s great that they are finally opening the border to let these workers in, we need over 4,000 of them. But I fear that farmers will have to choose to continue to be short-staffed through another calving and another winter rather than pay those wages, and that is a real concern for their mental health.

While farmers were being paid a bit more for some of their produce, they were also experiencing huge cost increases and couldn’t afford to pay someone $40 an hour, Herrick said.

“…and what do they do when their other workers want their pay to match?”

Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor and Immigration Minister Kris Faafoi were asked about rising wages and the impact this could have on primary industries.

Kavinda Herath / Stuff

Southland Federated Farmers President Jason Herrick talks about rural employment in Southland. [File video]

O’Connor relied on Faafoi to answer questions, and he referred them to the Department for Business, Innovation and Jobs.

Faafoi, when asked why he would not answer the questions given that he is Minister of Immigration, replied: “The government has taken measures to support the primary sector and its labor needs. since the start of the Covid pandemic and since border measures were put in place to protect New Zealand. This includes visa extensions and more than 8000 border exceptions for the primary sector.”

Where sectors have needed skilled migrant labour, the government has put in place exceptions under conditions reflecting the skills of the workforce concerned, such as median wage requirements, he said. he declares.

“The government imposed the requirement of 1.5 times the median wage as a flow control while Covid-related public health measures are still in place; because the border is still subject to restrictions.

“In July, this requirement of 1.5 times the median wage will be reduced for workers earning at least the median wage when the accredited employer work visa program takes effect.”

Further guidance on labor category exceptions and additions to government-approved lists is being prepared for Border Ministers to make decisions shortly to ensure that seasonal workers, workers critics who do not meet the 1.5 times the median wage test and other priority travelers could continue to come to New Zealand until the border is fully reopened, he said.

Michelle J. Kelley