Unemployment in NZ is a problem but, so too, is trying to employ people.
Employers such as rural contractors battle every year to find suitable applicants for their driving jobs.
Generally their jobs entail driving expensive 200hp-plus tractors with large and often unweildly implements on the back.
It’s not a job for the faint-hearted and you can see why contractors don’t want to have just anyone in control of such a set-up.
Rural Contractors NZ president Steve Levet says New Zealand needs more sensible rules and policies around employing overseas workers on a temporary basis.
“An on-going lack of skilled, local workers and the seasonal nature of our industry – as well as the complexity of visa systems – make it extremely difficult for contractors to get appropriately experienced staff when we need them,” he said.
A dire shortage of suitable workers means rural contractors have to rely on employing skilled people from overseas – usually from England and Ireland – on a temporary basis each season.
“However, despite our industry’s desperate and clear need for temporary workers, current immigration and employment laws are causing unnecessary headaches and expensive hold ups,” Mr Levet adds. “Unless the job category is on Immigration New Zealand’s immediate shortage list, the position must be listed with Work and Income New Zealand, with evidence it was adequately advertised locally on websites and/or newspapers.”
Mr Levet says unfortunately many of the applicants WINZ send out to try and fill these vacancies; either do not have the right skill-set and/or attitude to be successful.
“There seems to be a major disconnect from reality within both Immigration NZ and WINZ on this issue. You can’t just fill these jobs with unskilled, unmotivated local workers,” he explains.
“We are talking about operating highly technical and very expensive pieces machinery. It is both unrealistic and impractical to expect unemployed people to walk off the street and successfully take up these positions.”
Mr Levet says the seasonal nature of rural contracting means workers with the right skills are needed for only 3-4 months each year and, understandably, this kind of short-term employment does not suit locals who are looking for fulltime work.
“The rules around employing temporary, skilled people from overseas prepared to work for 3-4 months each year need to be simplified. And so do the regulations restricting people who have previously worked here in past seasons coming back to New Zealand to work.”
He says overseas workers who have previously been employed by contractors know the business, region and customers and can start operating machinery straight away.
“The jobs we’re talking about are seasonal and temporary … skilled overseas workers can fill this gap. These people are not a flight risk as they want to go back to their country of origin, or other countries, after our season finishes here to carry out similar seasonal work in those countries.”