Farm worker advert seeks person to work 18 days in a row

GERARD HUTCHING
Last updated 16:45 07/06/2016
CAMERON BURNELLl/FAIRFAX NZ

Helen Kelly says migration is being used to undermine wages and conditions.

An advertisement on New Zealand Farm Source website asking for a worker to be rostered on 18 days at a stretch.

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Trade unionist Helen Kelly says it is no wonder Kiwis don't want to work on farms when adverts seek people prepared to put in 18 days without a break.

Federated Farmers has criticised employers who post adverts on the website Farm Source Jobs asking for farm workers to work long hours, saying it gives the industry a bad name.

Kelly highlighted a number of adverts with onerous conditions which have been posted in the last few days, including some offering below the minimum wage.

The advert seeking someone to work 18 days before earning three days' break is a Hamilton position. Average hours are 55 a week, with a total package value of $50-55,000.

Kelly said there was also one where the spring hours were from 4.30 in the morning until 6.30 at night.

"They are just outrageous. Getting in two workers costs you more. That's total value [the package], they take rental off that, you don't get it in your hand.

"Bill English says New Zealanders are lazy, they don't want to work in these jobs, and then you see these conditions. No wonder," she said.

Kelly said migration was being used to undermine wages, and Treasury's own advice to the Government was that it was a way of controlling wage rates.

Last month Finance Minister Bill English told a Federated Farmers meeting that some young New Zealand men "didn't look to be employable". 

"A lot of the Kiwis that are meant to be available [for farm work] are pretty damned hopeless. They won't show up. You can't rely on them and that is one of the reasons why immigration's a bit permissive, to fill that gap," English said.

In a statement, Carla McQueen, digital channels manager, Farm Source, said:

"We don't condone anyone breaching the law. We've put in place significant filters and controls on the Farm Source job board to help farmers stay within regulations when they advertise. For example, it is not possible to post an ad for a position paying less than the minimum hourly wage.

"For salaried positions, our roster builders are a required part of ad postings and are based on Dairy NZ standard industry rosters. We are continually reviewing our filters and controls to ensure they are working in practice."

Federated Farmers dairy group chairman Andrew Hoggard said there was no denying there were some bad adverts.

"There are people still stuck in the 70s mode, but there's also progressive farm ads as well. We're trying to encourage more people to think progressively and also encourage farm workers to look for those progressive jobs," Hoggard said.

But equally so he knew of farmers advertising for staff who have had upwards of 60 applicants and more, and out of all those only two or three are local. The farming sector sought locals but 20 per cent of farm workers now are immigrants.

At the recent Health and Safety awards, with the farm that won, best practice was seen as 50 hours work a week. "I thought that interesting," Kelly said.

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Hoggard said it was not against the law to ask workers to work 18 days in a row. The only legal requirement was that the salary was above the minimum wage.

"But the risk factor is health and safety, if someone injured themselves because they were fatigued having worked so many days in a row, then the employer could be in trouble in that regard because there is a body of evidence about the more days you work, the more risk," Hoggard said.

Late last year Federated Farmers and DairyNZ launched a Workplace Action Plan. They want to have 90 per cent of dairy farm businesses providing quality work environments, beyond their legal requirements, by 2020.

It focuses on productive work time, fair pay, health and safety, a good team culture and rewarding careers for staff.

Staff turnover in the industry was often due to workers moving up the career ladder rather than quitting the industry.

The DairyNZ website says "great" employers ensure employees on a well-designed roster normally: are not likely to work more than 50 per week; are not likely to work more than 10 hours a day; are not likely to work more than four hours in any day before a break is taken; have regular days off, set by the roster system; have at least two consecutive days off.

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- Stuff

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