Desperate need for unskilled workers

ASHLEIGH STEWART
Last updated 05:00 07/01/2013
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Does Christchurch need to bring in more immigrants to do low-paid, unskilled work?

Yes, there aren't enough locals willing to do those jobs

No, locals can and should do it

No, employers just need to change their demands

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Some of Christchurch's biggest employers are calling for more unskilled immigrants to be allowed into New Zealand to fill job vacancies.

While the city calls for tradesmen, engineers and management-level workers as the rebuild gets into full swing, some businesses say there is a similar need for those willing to do low-paid, unskilled work.

Trish Paterson, recruitment manager for Christchurch-based employment agency Ryan Recruitment, said many local companies were struggling to fill positions that required no qualifications or skills that can be learned on the job.

"It's not so much that [jobs] are not available, but in a lot of cases they are paying minimum wage and there are other employers paying more, even if it is only 50c per hour, people will move jobs for that," she said.

The company was even struggling to find people to stand with Stop/Go signs to manage traffic at road works.

Employers needed to adjust their expectations, she said.

"The old attitude 'if they want the job they have to fit in with us' is now unrealistic.

"Quite often it is about thinking outside the square . . . taking a more lateral approach and sourcing people that can be trained to do the job, perhaps people they would not have considered in the past."

Paterson said Christchurch may have to consider bringing in more immigrants.

"The work visa thing needs looking at. For example you get an Irish person who loves being here, contributes both with their efforts, adds to the local diversity and also their financial offerings to the region and often the country and they can't easily extend or tweak their conditions; much to their frustrations."

A spokesman for Sanford Ltd said the fishing company was understaffed, and desperately needed night-shift cleaners and factory process workers.

"The amount of applications we get are few and far between and the applications we are getting are not really of a level we want to take at the moment.

"A lot of the ones we're getting are from overseas and they don't have work visas and stuff so we can't hire them anyway."

People arriving in Christchurch were struggling with accommodation and choosing higher-paid work and becoming tradesmen. The company was looking abroad to solve its labour problem.

"It's only going to get worse. We've been speaking to the CDC [Canterbury Development Corporation], and they've gone out and talked to other businesses and we're all feeling the same."

Fast-food chain McDonald's was also struggling to find staff.

Spokesman Kim Bartlett said it was down to the number of hospitality workers who have fled the city.

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"It's definitely a challenge to fill available positions at McDonald's restaurants in Christchurch at the moment, across the board from crew members to management. We believe this is due to industry starting to pick up again, such as hotels reopening and hiring staff, whilst the labour pool has shrunk considerably since the earthquakes."

A Department of Labour spokeswoman said it was being approached by employers looking for workers, and had established the Canterbury Skills and Employment Hub to help fill vacancies.

"Christchurch is presenting a lot of opportunities for people to go back into the work force. But a lot of them are now choosing which job they would rather do," she said.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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