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Call goes out for kiwifruit pickers and packers

Picking the fruit. Supplied photos.

The first kiwifruit will be picked off the vines this week and growers across the country anticipate needing around 23,000 workers for the harvest.

The harvest runs through till June and is expected to produce even more than last year’s record of 157 million trays of Green and Gold.

New Zealand Kiwifruit Growers Inc. chief executive Officer Nikki Johnson says ongoing Covid-19 overseas travel restrictions mean growers will be looking to offer job opportunities to even more New Zealanders to provide most of the workforce – meeting the shortfall of people on the RSE scheme from the Pacific islands and working holiday visa-holders.

As in previous years, NZKGI has been working for several months to prepare for the season opening and the significant labour requirements.

“Our strategy to attract labour is to get as much information and awareness about the seasonal work available for potential workers out there through a wide range of media and channels and correct any misconceptions about kiwifruit work. We want the opportunities to be highly visible and well-understood,” says Johnson.

NZKGI CEO Nikki Johnson.

An important part of the NZKGI strategy is an outreach programme to potential New Zealand sources of seasonal workers, in particular seniors and tertiary students, says Johnson.

This year NZKGI is also working closely with the Ministry of Social Development and the Ministry for Primary Industries to ensure unemployed Kiwis are fully aware of what the industry can offer.

“We’re thrilled to have the support of MSD and MPI behind us; they are creating some excellent initiatives, events and marketing to get the messages around kiwifruit work opportunities to those seeking employment – and it’s not just about seasonal work. Kiwifruit offers long-term and permanent career opportunities in our leading horticultural sector.”

Pickers and packers should expect to earn at least the living wage in this year’s harvest – a great message to attract workers to the industry.

Almost all packhouses have told NZKGI that they will be paying at least the living wage of $22.10 per hour.

Kiwifruit picking is expected to exceed the living wage and paid an average of $24 last year when the minimum wage was $18.90 per hour. 

NZKGI Coordinator Gavin Stagg distributes information on picking and packing to backpacker accommodation.

Workers are encouraged to consider their options and find an employer who meets their expectations around pay, hours and locations.

People interested in participating in this year’s harvest can find vacancies on NZKGI’s Facebook page KiwifruitJobsNZ and detailed information on the different jobs and worker rights on the NZKGI website www.NZKGI.org.nz

Key resources

Key resources prepared to support the strategy include an updated, online video featuring orchard workers and growers talking about the industry and jobs, a comprehensive 14-page workers’ guide to the seasonal work – The Little Green and Gold Book, and a strong social media programme to promote available roles and answer queries from potential workers.

Both the video and the guide are available online and the guide is being widely distributed through accommodation sites, tertiary institutes, MSD branches and other outlets.

“We want prospective workers to have access to everything they need to help them decide to come and work for us,” says Johnson.

“That includes guidance on the roles available, timings, pay rates, working conditions and workers’ rights, health and safety, accommodation options and leisure possibilities in the various kiwifruit-growing regions.

“We particularly emphasise the importance of choosing an accredited and reputable employer – and our guide tells them exactly what they should expect of their employer.”

 

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