Dole queues long but bosses can't get workers

NARELLE HENSON
Last updated 05:00 23/03/2013
Kristin Goodwin
Fairfax NZ
FRUIT GROWER: Kristin Goodwin wanted an administration worker, got 200 applicants, but only five were suitable.

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Frustrated bosses say they can't find suitable workers for even the most basic of labouring jobs despite the high unemployment rate, as they deal with people who turn up drunk if they come to work at all.

Some employers say they are dealing with dozens of applicants unpresentable and unfit for work and they fear it's only going to get worse as the next wave of benefit reforms starts to settle in and more beneficiaries are forced to actively look for work.

The Waikato Times reported early this week that employers were being inundated with applicants for jobs - with some 500 people applying for just 50 jobs available at a burger chain that is to open soon in Hamilton.

Latest figures show the number of Waikato people on the unemployment benefit increased 33 per cent between September and December last year to 3699 - 65.9 per cent more than in December 2008.

But despite the many jobless, employers say continual absenteeism, substance abuse and poor work ethic appear to be making a lot of them unemployable.

Dave Connell, vice-president of the New Zealand Contractors Federation and managing director of Connell Construction, who is juggling operations in the Waikato and for the Christchurch rebuild, said 100 people responded to a Trade Me job advertisement for a junior construction role, but not one was suitable to hire.

"We are letting seven people go for every one we keep," he said.

"I have had some people last half a day and walk off the job with $800 worth of [work] gear on them; one guy had six sick days in two weeks, and we have had issues with physicality too."

Mr Connell said he was desperate to fill positions, but could not find anyone with the right attitude.

"We have dealt with absenteeism, drunkenness, drugs . . . We are persevering for three to six weeks sometimes."

Mr Connell said the situation was getting desperate and he had been forced to look overseas for workers - as far away as Europe.

"I have employed six guys from Europe in the last couple of years, and one of their KPIs [Key Performance Indicators] is they must find and train up young Kiwis.

"But I am apologising for my own countrymen, they are saying to me, Do not give me any more of this rubbish . . . It's the most shameful thing."

Whitehall Fruitpackers' Kristin Goodwin said she had had trouble finding good workers.

An administration role she advertised received 200 applicants, of whom five were suitable to interview. She completed interviews for fruit-packing staff this week, and said about a quarter of applicants did not have basic interview skills.

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"I had one guy ring me up and say ‘A mate told me about this job, I've been told it is p... easy'.

"After I described it to him he said ‘Oh yeah, I'd be able to p... all over that'."

Her concerns were echoed by Chris Berry, operations manager of Agribusiness Wairarapa Moana Inc. He said his organisation was finding recruitment for junior roles difficult.

"At the entry level we are really, really struggling.

"We do pre-emptive drug tests and that puts a lot of people off . . . There is work out there if people are prepared to do it."

Employers and Manufacturers Association Northern chief executive Kim Campbell said he was constantly hearing complaints from employers about jobseekers who don't show up on time, can't fill in forms, or once landing the job, disappear for days.

"That includes people who allegedly have skills. They just don't have civic skills; they don't know how to be citizens."

Mr Campbell said the problem could be more noticeable because the recession had driven skilled workers overseas and "we're left with the dregs".

Social Development Minister Paula Bennett said the latest round of welfare changes were aimed at addressing some of the problems employers were seeing.

"We'll expect jobseekers to be drug-free, available and actively looking for work and there are sanctions for those who refuse to make that effort."

Training was available to prepare people for work, such as help putting together a CV, or with how to act in an interview. However, the Government could do only so much to address the problems.

"At the end of the day, the Government can't force people to have a good work attitude, there needs to be some personal responsibility."

But the Labour Party spokeswoman for social development, Jacinda Ardern, said the Government's welfare changes were unlikely to address the underlying issues for people struggling to find and maintain work.

"The Government's approach when you fail is to chop your benefit in half; that does not solve the other problems that might be going on.

"It is important to provide skills and training for the jobs that exist."

COMMON JOBSEEKER FAULTS

Drunkenness
Absenteeism
Failing drug tests
Physicality when told to leave site
Not turning up for interview
Smoking throughout interview
Chewing gum throughout interview
No CV prepared
CVs full of basic spelling mistakes

- Waikato Times

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