RSE Reporting

Or should I say aRSE reporting.  

I was dismayed at the reporting on Campbell Live last night regarding the newly initiated Recognised Seasonal Employer scheme that a multitude of government departments have put together to 

  1. Try and alleviate the labour issues in the horticultural sector
  2. Help the various pacific islands 
There was talk of workers having deductions taken from their pay packets which bought them below the minimum wage.  I am not saying Basil Goodman was right, he did a couple of stupid things, but there is a fundamental flaw in the programme and this is it.
A New Zealander goes to work, gets paid, and then has to cover all his or her living costs; rent, food, transport, insurance etc.  
However an RSE worker goes to work, gets paid, and if he is too lazy and can’t be bothered to work then the employer, as is law for everyone, has to still pay him minimum wage. However the employer still is responsible for his rent, his insurance etc.  How does this work? Well the RSE employer is responsible for their pastoral care.  This means housing, transport, health, half the airfares, getting to church, clothing, you name it.  The employer is not allowed to take money out of the pay packet if it brings the wage to below minimum wage…what New Zealander gets that priviledge.  That’s what TV3 failed to pick up and its something I bought up at the beginning of the scheme.
Campbelllive said that these guys were effectively getting paid around $5/hr.  Yes after all their living costs had been paid for. there is many a NZ family that would love to have $5/hour left over after living costs.
On the whole the RSE scheme is brilliant; everyone wins, it’s great for large employees. There are enough government people on the ground to monitor any shenanigans, beleive me there are enough people.  I went to a meeting to see about becoming an RSE and was met by 3 government officials and an observer!  It was just a preliminary meeting for goodness sake. (We have decided not to do RSE this year)
Can I just say that there is plenty of money to be made in, as a worker in the hort industry.  It’s physical and it’s outdoors but …put your mind to it and you can achieve.
But back to the reporting and the scheme.  One large brick bat for TV3 for missing out on a salient point and a smallish bouquet for the RSE scheme. It needs titivating, but it’s doing a lot of good and that good far outways any negative publicity.
P.S. if any of the RSE workers decide to leg it and not go back to the island, who gets the $3000 bill; the employer.
P.P.S. We have no mutual recognition agreement with the pacific islands that covers health. So these employees have to take out health insurance; it’s expensive, over $10/week, but not as expensive as if they don’t and a serious health issue arises.
 
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2 Responses to “RSE Reporting”

  1. kolokakala Says:

    Traditionally, horticulture jobs are not popular within New Zealand for the following reasons:
    1. low pay
    2. unreliable hours etc
    RSE scheme on paper did look good but poor implementation and the whole scheme designed to benefit NZ. What Cambell did report is only the tip of the iceberg the problems workers from the Pacific are subject to exploitation with deja vu all over again to NZ previous work schemes.
    There were lot of concerns raised at national level for the government to improve but government officials ploughed hugh amount of resources, bought some of the media with free or sponsor trips to report how well the scheme has been implemented.
    Surprise? you may be and the NZ public but not for those of us who understand the concept.
    After the NZ Prime Minister announced the scheme during Pacific Forum Leaders, October 2005 in Fiji, NZ officials went into overdrive with Department of Labour, official administrator of the scheme. Dr (?) Mary Anne Thompson, Deputy Secertary and head of NZ Immigration, head of a steering group of top government officials including; NZAIDS, MFAT, MSD.
    What they did, they reinvented the old failed work scheme model of the past years (70s-90s) and gave it a new name “Recognised Seasonal Employer Scheme (RSE)”.
    What was fundamentally wrong from the begining was the process took by these so call best brains in NZ bureaucracy. NZ wrote the rules, draft agreement and thrown in the participated countries (was originally 6 but was reduced to 5 as Fiji was excluded because of the December 2006 military coup) official representatives together with industry representatives and put them in a hotel Dec 2006 for two days, and the rest is history now.
    NZ has to been seen thorogh and majority of the recources went to incerase border control and PR. The rest was left to the industry, which I agreed that the industry should pay its fair share, after all the industry will stand to gain and NZ.
    Two key steakholders were not included after steering group came up with the scheme; they are the Ministry of Pacific Island Affairs and the Pacific community.
    Division of NZI, Pacific Division, including Dr Thompson was charged of the scheme. People appointed to the key roles had no experience in this area.
    After the first three months, problems started to surface as workers were struggling as work dried up and went through tough times. Who came into the rescue? It was the families and member of the community. Through this we started to hightlight some of the NZ employers cuting corners. TV One News and Cambell Live and some in the media were helping to promote the scheme started to turn against DoL.
    We all heard, read and learnt about this basic rule: Good working environment = high productivity. You can’t treat anybody like that and expect good productivity. As Peter Cullen, employment lawyer said on Cambell Live, “it head back to the evil of the old legislation, designed to stop you and lost control of your wages”.
    I take exception to your claim that the workers are lazy but they still get pay. This streotype NZ approach that we don’t want the outside world to know is still alive here.
    For your information, these workers are here at the request of the NZ government on behalf of the Horticulture nidustry who struggle to find ordinary NZers to work low pay. If NZers don’t want to work in this type of condition, how the hell you expect Pacific or other workers to do it?
    The other point you need to know, these workers pay the same tax rate as NZers workers in the industry but they not entitle to medical or working for family or other benefits fro MSD we enjoy when we on the dole.
    You should be careful as obviously you have jumped on the emotional train without checking your facts and appreciate that NZ is part of the Pacific and the sooner you know that the better we are as a country.

    Have a good weekend.

  2. maidennz Says:

    Kolokakala
    Thanks for the time spent writing this very informative comment. I have to apologise if I gave you impression that I believed Pacific Islanders were lazy; they are not. What I meant was that the minimum wage scheme put in place to protect workers can actually harm the employers. In horticulture, as you appear to know, most of the work is piecemeal; paid on a per tree, per vine or per bin rate. If the worker (NZer, PI, Czech or Izbekistanian) decides not to work the employer still has to pay minimum wage. Effectively workers can sit under a tree for a few days and still get paid.
    I am also very aware that the RSE workers do not qualify for the medical benefits or WFF that other NZ tax payers are. NZ has a trans tasman mutual recognition agreement with Australia which allows members of both countries to access free medical while travelling in each others countries. It’s something to think about for RSE scheme I think.
    I will look further into some of your statements…they make very interesting reading.

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