Australian Seasonal Employers Scheme Should Include Other Trades

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RSE could be invaluable training to Pacific workers

By Lagi Keresoma

APIA, Samoa (Talamua, July 14, 2015) – The Recognized Seasonal Employers (RSE) scheme should be extended to include other trades rather than focusing on farming and auto trade.

The issue of extending the scheme came up during the three day conference in Apia last week with the push by the Pacific islands involved to extend to other trades other than horticulture and viticulture auto (drivers) employment.

During the conference, Samuelu Lati who has been with RSE for 8 years has already established a tourism business at Poutasi.

Lati worked picking apples and the money he made in the 7 years with the company Appleseed in Hawkes Bay, Hastings went into the development of his Traditional Canoeing and Tours tourism business at Poutasi.

Lati argued that had he a chance to work and learn from a tourism business in New Zealand, it would not take him 8 years to try and develop his business locally.

Another Poutasi man Uiti Lagavale has been with the RSE scheme for 2 years and is also focusing on a tourism business as well.

If by extending to other trade can help developed the workers back home, then Su’a said RSE should seriously consider other trades.

The Horticulture & Viticulture New Zealand RSE Conference was opened by Prime Minister Tuilaepa Lupesoliai Sailele Malielegaoi who last year invited the conference to come to Samoa for the very first time.

New Zealand Labour MP Su’a Viliamu Su’a who attended the conference supported the idea of extending the trades currently covered by the scheme.

Su’a said RSE should look at including tourism and hospitality and other potential trades under the scheme.

It was Prime Minister Tuilaepa who first asked to lift the cap on the number of workers allowed under the scheme each year.

"The only viable option that can be perceived is to lift the cap of worker visas allowed on the scheme," said Tuilaepa.

He said by lifting the cap, it becomes a three way win, the Government, the employers and the workers.

"RSE may only be the beginning but we all believe it has the makings of a scheme that can go far and beyond," said Tuilaepa.

"The industry’s goal to grow the sector to a certain level of achievement would mean increasing workers capacity and capabilities than currently being applied," said Tuilaepa.

Fiji, Tonga, Vanuatu, Papua New Guinea, Niue Solomon Islands, Nauru, Kiribati and Samoa and New Zealand farm owners supported Tuilaepa’s challenge.

"From Samoa’s perspective, the RSE scheme though it might be perceived to be an ambitious and complex policy, it none-the-less an answer to the ills of labour shortage for your horticulture and viticulture businesses, and at the same time enabling Pacific workers to enter, work and earn in New Zealand on a seasonal basis every year," Tuilaepa said.

Samoa and Vanuatu dominated the number of workers under the scheme every year since 2007 when the scheme was first introduced with Fiji, Nauru and Papua New Guinea recently joining the scheme.

Samoa has sent 8821 workers since 2007 while Vanuatu‘s total workers sits at 2075.

Pre-departure training for workers

Several farm owners told Talamua they are generally happy with the performance of the workers however, there are little issues that have created problems such as the language and behaviour of the workers sometimes.

Su’a however said before a group is send to New Zealand, there should be a pre-departure training for all the workers.

"They should also be informed and be educated on how to articulate their rights and claims as employees," said Su’a

He said the workers should not allow the employers to take advantage of them and the workers must also understand the rights and responsibilities of workers in New Zealand.

Some of the workers have never been outside Samoa before and once in New Zealand, they enjoy the freedom and sometimes end up in trouble and some island workers are awaiting court cases in New Zealand.

Going forward, most of the Pacific islands represented suggested ways to improve the scheme such as expanding and strengthening RSE Unit, Marketing package, Strengthening selection process to ensure quality workers, Enhancing RSE training and Placing recruitment conditions on island quota.

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