In April 2007, the Recognized Seasonal employer came into effect in New Zealand. The strategy permits the viticulture and horticulture industries to recruit employees for seasonal work when there are lack of workers in New Zealand. Seasonal employment usually means that work is over a particular period of time. However, seasonal employment is not a term applied as a part of New Zealand’s employment legislation which is the Employment Relations Act 2000. Thus, before approaching the employer for work the worker must have a valid work visa, IRD number and New Zealand bank account. As opposed to depicting an employer as being a seasonal employer, it might be more secure to portray the employment as fixed term employment which is covered under the Act. Section 66 of the Employment Relations Act 2000 levies positive requirements for individual employment agreements where the employment is fixed term. The Employment Relations Act 2000 provides that an employer and employee may agree that the employment of the employee will end: At the close of a specified date or period; on the occurrence of a specified event; or at the conclusion of a specified project (Reuters, 2018). People who go for seasonal fruit picking jobs are mostly people from rural areas who are youths, unemployed and have lack of education.
New Zealand has 8 main horticulture regions. The unique weather condition means different fruits grow better in some regions than others. For instance, pip fruit like apples, pears and grapes easily in Hawkes Bay and Nelson while stone fruit like cherries and apricots grow better in Central Otago. The fruit picking laborers are paid per hour or per piece of fruit besides workers have to work hard for earning significantly. The fruit picking laborers work so unobtrusively to pick the fruits as it is difficult undertaking to invest energy in picking the fruits by standing on ladder constantly. The season of working day begins from 8 am to 5pm if the workers work at regular routine, the earning is $28.30 for every bin or few workers work on the agreement basis. On the off chance the workers attempt to pick 5 bins every day they make an enormous measure of money by doing this lucrative fruit picking work. Some land owners wants to pay per bin or bucket to the fruit pickers which is the immense reward. The fruit picking workers are paid variedly as the rates fluctuate from farm to farm. The period of the distinctive fruit picking differs from country to country and fruit to fruit.
All workers, part time, full time, permanent, fixed-term or casual are entitled to a duplicate of the individual or collective contract in writing. The use agreement should have terms and conditions that are a minimum of pretty much as good because the minimum rights within the law. Minimum rights and responsibilities apply to all or any staff, even if: it’s not in contract, the contract tries to trade some off against one another, or contract tries to create the worker get but these minimums, or associate worker do not have associate contract though the leader is needed to provide the worker. The law that protects associate worker at work by: setting the minimum rights of associate worker, ensuring that each one staff are safe at work and not unlawfully discriminated against, intimidated or troubled and ensuring that the leader acts in good faith.
Rights when working in New Zealand comprises a worker should have written employment agreement that both the employer and employee have contracted to work together. The employer need to provide a copy to the employee, thus, the employment agreement will enlighten the pay, deductions, and other employment deductions. The employment agreement will indicate the terms and conditions of entitlements which incorporate such things as working hours, holiday and sick leave allowances (sheet, n.d.).
The employers must prove a safe working environment with appropriate training, equipment and supervision. However, when there is a disagreement with the employer in relation to paying wages and working conditions, employees should try to resolve the issues with the employer straight away through following the procedures stated in the employment agreement. If the employee is not happy with the response than labor inspector must be contacted. Thus, if the problem is still not resolved than both parties can go to the mediation services either through Ministry of Business, innovation and Employment mediation services or by independent mediators. Both parties can go to the Employment relations authority for a determination when the problem still needs to be solved.
Therefore, employers meet the employees meal costs through work related obligations with the recognition of how expensive the meal cost are for employees in comparison to normal meals at homes. Under this meal allowances there are two exemptions: For meal payments, an exemption only applies only for 3 months if the employee is working away from original or normal place of work when travelling on business trips as required. This specifically depends on the period whereby it can either be for short term, work related trip or longer period after or following the work location distance. Another exemption is the payments made in order to cover for the working meals and light refreshments when working in various locations off the premises without any upper time limit. In both situations, the full amount of any payment of meals is under exemption which includes meal allowances and compensation, with regards to the 3 months exemption, it only proceeds when the employee starts working at the workplace and can have extensions if the employee continuously works at that particular location (Revenue, 2015).
A classic example is John, an employee who usually works in Auckland but is sent to Christchurch to work for 6 months. John’s employer pays his meal allowances in the secondment which is after the exemptions for 3 months meal allowance and remaining taxable of secondment. In other cases, if the employee doesn’t have a fixed base and is sent to various locations from their normal place of work which is out of the accommodation base, then the time limit applies from the arriving time and date at the accommodation base. An example is Bruce who normally lives in Napier and is sent to work in an infrastructure project by his employer to work. This work requires him to move around a lot to various locations in the Waikato.
However, Bruce decided to rent a house as a base for him to use and travel to other locations as required for each day. Thus, the 3 month time limit does apply at the date when Bruce moves and rented the accommodation. There are personal reasons when considering the movement of employees to their allocated job locations as required such as the leave, weekend breaks and short breaks as required as part of work purposes. And note that all these will be disregarded. In reference to the second exemption, payments to cover for meal expenses are exempted under certain circumstances. For instance, lunches were provided at a conference or training courses organized near the normal workplace location. Here the exemption of expenses only applies if the employee attends the lunch meal due to the nature of the job or duties.
Seasonal workers who work in New Zealand for less than one year are allowed to 8% annual pay of the total before tax wages. Some of the employers comprise holiday pay in weekly pay but others will pay it at the end of the employment. For instance, if a worker is normally paid $15 for filling every bin of apples, and he fills 40 bins at the end of the week, he will be paid $648. The additional $48 which is 8% of $600 ought to be shown independently as annual holiday pay in the pay slip. Employment rights and obligation of seasonal workers in New Zealand, under New Zealand employment law for seasonal jobs, employee and employer both have certain rights and obligations. For instance, employer has to pay a granted wage, and to make sure wherever employees have to work is safe. The employee’s side of the bargain requires to perform job with care and competence, among other things. The legal manual produced by Community Law lists employee’s basic rights and obligations (LAW, 2018).
However, one of the obligations as an employee is to stay within the conditions of the visa. If a employee has a work visa, it might be tied to the employer, industry, or to a particular city or region. If that’s the case and an employee wants to switch jobs, the worker may need to apply for a variation of conditions first. Employers must have a general duty to protect the health and safety of their workers which are fruit pickers at work as far as possible. There will be specific duties to look at such as the machines and tools the workers use must be safe and that there is more training and supervision done to protect the workers from harm. These duties are set out in the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 that is dealt with health and safety concerns in all workforces and all work activities done during harvesting of fruits (Anon., n.d.).
Therefore, the Act also provides a variety of enforcement methods for when someone doesn’t abide with the Act. Employers are also required to involve their workers to improve their health and safety as worker participation. This act also provides specific safety duties such as; providing and maintaining a risk-free working environment, making sure the machinery and equipment in the workplace are safe and off harm to the workers during fruit picking, making sure the work systems are safe, ensuring there are safe processes and facilities for using, handling and store equipment’s and other substances, providing with adequate facilities for employees welfare at work, and making sure workers have access to it to give all necessary information, training, instruction and supervision and observing the health of workers and the conditions at the workplace in order to prevent injuries and illness. Discriminating against someone because of the gender, sexual orientation, family status, marital status, color, nationality or country of origin, race, ethical belief, political opinion, employment status, age or disability is illegal in New Zealand. Sexual harassment, including requests for sexual contact and any kind of offensive or unwelcome sexual behavior, are also illegal. According to the Fijian Government some Fijian seasonal workers in New Zealand devour concerns on pay, accommodation and transport expenses.
Fiji government declared it had excluded all-inclusive communities from taking part in the Recognized Seasonal Employer scheme in New Zealand after criticisms took by New Zealand government about misconduct and disorganized behavior by some Fijian workers. As stated by Mr.Usamate that workers concerned included the poor quality of accommodation, low pay, and high transportation costs and not given enough time to familiarize themselves with the tasks. The workers had to work for less than the minimum wage rate and without breaks or holiday pay and sometimes poor accommodation and lack of food. It is difficult for the employees to voice out against the employers as it can lead to the risk of losing jobs and being deported (Anon., 2017).In addition, Fijians have been lured to New Zealand for fruit picking with the promise of earning almost seven times the weekly wages in Fiji. After the arrival, the false promises quickly unrivalled. For example, some of the workers were sent to kiwifruit orchards in Tauranga where workers were forced to work illegally for long hours, sleep on the floor of overcrowded basements and were paid little.
The strengths of the existing local labor laws that are protecting the seasonal workers is a path to decent work, work is part of everyone’s life and is crucial to a person’s dignity, well-being and developed as a human being. People can work in freedom and dignity. An international legal framework for fair and stable globalization aims at making sure that economic growth and development go along with the creation of creative work and lay down the basic minimum social standards agreed upon by all players in the global economy. A level playing field helps government and people to avoid the temptation of lowering labor standards in the belief that this could give them a greater comparative advantage in international trade. Means of improving economic performance, safety standards can reduce costly and healthcare fees. Fruit picking is that the work is available and there will be always be a need for fruit pickers. It is a great way to travel from place to place and it builds experience. This type of work means that workers do not need any qualifications for the job as people can often find and start work on the same day.
The weakness such as contract workers are excluded from protection, protection of contract workers has been of the most beneficial aspects, since workers are often subject to greatest exploitation and abuse, meaning that they are more frequently victims of unsafe workplaces. Thus, sometimes international labor standards are seen as demanding significant cost and therefore hindering economic development. Although, fruit farmers who hire fruit pickers on a temporary contract basis also provide accommodation and food, the working hours are long and potentially back biting. Workers have to start early in the morning in order to keep the fruits crisp and fresh before the intense heats in. The pay and minimum wage rate is not as expected.
The challenges seasonal workers face embraces, these workers are going to work in a new country, not familiar with labors laws and rules of that country, those who go for fruit picking are represented by a labor hire company, Labor hire company picks locals from rural and interior areas of Fiji especially unemployed youths, these employees are uneducated and they lack proper formal qualification. Also, these employees are paid on price meal basis.
The necessary changes recommended that needs to be made to the current labor law so that the employment rights of the locals going overseas for seasonal fruit picking jobs are better protected includes having a distinct and strong Labor law that outlines the laws, the policies, procedures and channels the seasonal workers has to follow to voice out their opinions in terms of employment matters and Ministry of labor to handle recruitment and monitoring.