Filipino farmers locked in residency struggle

Filipino Dairy Workers in New Zealand chairwoman Maiden Saba.
Fairfax NZ

Filipino Dairy Workers in New Zealand chairwoman Maiden Saba.

Residency decisions are locking Mid and South Canterbury's Filipino dairy workers into wage jobs and out of careers, advocates say.

Filipino Dairy Workers in New Zealand chairwoman Maiden Saba said Filipino dairy workers were leaving the region for Australia and Canada because they could not become residents after years of working on farms.

Saba said after paying more than $5000 in fees to doctors, lawyers and Immigration New Zealand to complete their residency applications and waiting more than a year in some cases, workers were having their applications declined.

Ministry for Business, Innovation and Employment spokeswoman Rachel Purdom said Immigration New Zealand declined 57 per cent of Filipino nationals' applications for residency as dairy cattle farmers in the past year.

"The number of residence visas approved and declined for the dairy cattle farmer role shows that while some workers employed in this role do have a substantial match to the required duties, many others only have a partial match, which does not meet the threshold set by Immigration Instructions for approval of a residence visa under the Skilled Migrant Category."

Saba and Migrante Aotearoa national co-ordinator Dennis Maga believed some farmers deliberately downplayed workers' management responsibilities to prevent their residency applications succeeding.

"They [the employers] are afraid they [the workers] will transfer if they get residency," Saba said.

She said some workers wanted to develop their farming careers by becoming contract milkers but could not because the income they would get from it was too unstable to ensure a successful residency application.

Because Filipino workers did not get residency, their children could not attend New Zealand universities without paying relatively high international student fees, an option many workers could not afford. Their children faced the option of working in low-wage jobs or leaving New Zealand.

Saba said she planned to leave New Zealand for Australia because her application had been declined.

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Maga believed relatively low wages for dairy workers discouraged New Zealanders from the industry, and this contributed to continued poor working conditions in the industry.

 - The Timaru Herald

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