Employers urged to focus on health needs, housing for seasonal workers

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An organisation supporting workers from the Pacific Islands wants employers to ensure staff are well looked after as the seasonal worker scheme starts up again.

Solomon Islanders working in the pack house at JR's Orchards in New Zealand under the Recognised Seasonal Employer program.

Increasing the living wage will make a big difference to families, a union advocate says. (file pic)
Photo: RNZ Pacific/ Koroi Hawkins

The government will bring in 2000 Recognised Seasonal Employer, or RSE, workers into the country to help with harvests.

Growers must pay isolation facility costs for each worker and also pay them the living wage of just over $22 an hour.

Caroline Mareko the whanau manaaki at Toru Fetu Kindergarten.

Caroline Mareko
Photo: RNZ Pacific/Koroi Hawkins

The co-convenor of Komiti Pasefika, CTU, Caroline Mareko supports the changes to the programme restrictions and adds that increasing the living wage will make a big difference to families.

“It’s great news this is happening,” she said.

“This will enable these working people to financially support their families and contribute to their country of origin.

“This is especially significant given the impact of Covid-19 on tourism in the Pacific.”

But she said employers must make Covid-19 plans for their employees, including providing health material in relevant languages.

“We believe those employers who are part of the RSE scheme should be required to provide information, in the relevant languages, to all employees.

“This would be best practice and something we will campaign to include with all RSE scheme employers.”

That also includes providing warm, safe and dry housing, as well as ensuring workers aren’t burdened with added costs for personal protective equipment (PPE).

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