The factors which have resulted in migrant workers being 'essential' workers on New Zealand dairy farms
Over the past decade, the dairy industry has grown in land area, number of cows, milk production and dairy exports to the point where it is New Zealand’s premier exporter. Growth has been accompanied by significant structural changes to the industry. In particular, many small, family owned and managed farms, that were characterised by high levels of self employment, have been replaced by large scale ‘factory’ style, irrigated farms that depend on non family, often casualized and seasonal workers, who work very long hours. Staffing these farms has been problematic and recruitment and retention have been regularly highlighted issues. Such issues have cast doubt on the social sustainability of the dairy industry. The future of the dairy industry to a large degree depends on its people. Many of these people are now migrants, who have become ‘essential’ because traditional sources of labour are inadequate. Does a dependence on migrant workers jeopardise the future stability and sustainability of dairy production? Can all stakeholders in the industry benefit from migratory staff in such a way that all parties achieve a winning outcome, as for the horticultural Recognised Seasonal Employer Scheme. A profound change in the dairy industry may be necessary to ensure that stakeholders make the effort necessary to negotiate such a multi win outcome, which might provide a lasting rather than a temporary solution. The paper reviews the changes in the dairy farm labour force from census data, Linked Employee Employer Data (LEED) and information from the Department of Labour on temporary work permits. The risks associated with dependence on a migratory labour force are considered.... [Show full abstract]
Keywordsdairying; dairy farming; migrants; labour; social responsibility; sustainability; workforce
TypeConference Contribution - Published (Conference Paper)
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