New Zealand Master Contractors Programme Report
During the early 1990's the horticultural industry transitioned through to a new phase regarding its labour employment practices. As a result of increased governmental employment compliance issues and a decrease in the financial returns to orchards, employers who prior to this were predominantly growers or post harvest facilities, retracted from the employment of orchard workers. The result of this transition was the industry beginning to rely heavily of teams of field staff who had organised themselves into working groups. These groups were frequently formed on a very casual basis. The leader of these groups, the Contractor, was often inexperienced at business practice and employment matters. The ease at which these 'Contractors' were able to form companies and employ their staff has proven in many cases to be detrimental to the horticultural industry due to their poor business and employment practices. As with the pipfruit and viticulture sectors, the kiwifruit industry has worked reasonably harmoniously with these groups over the past 15 years, however as time has progressed an increasing trend of non-compliant behaviour has emerged. While a reasonable proportion of the contractors working within the kiwifruit industry are doing so in a compliant nature, the industry still falls victim to the extremely ruinous publicity of bad headlines. The sheer nature and increasing frequency of these headlines, let alone the enormity of the non-compliant behaviour exposed, have compounded many issues for the horticultural sector culminating in a public attitude towards the contracting industry of distrust and caution. This attitude along with the current low unemployment rate has seen staffing levels in the horticultural sector at an all time low. Employment on orchards or for that matter within the post-harvest facilities is currently seen by many jobseekers and school leavers as only a temporary solution to their unemployment. Compliant contractors working within the horticultural and viticultural sectors are becoming increasingly frustrated at the limitations being imposed on them due to the activities of their less compliant peers. These contractors are essentially labour contractors and the work involved by their staff is, despite general perception, skilled and production orientated. For a contractor to operate efficiently and produce work of high quality, which will relate directly to productivity, staff of a reasonable standard need to be attracted to their businesses. Therefore there is a necessity to lift the perception of the contracting industry to enable a wider workforce to be attracted and to upskill and retain both the workforce and many of the contractors themselves.... [Show full abstract]
Keywordshorticultural industry; contractors; labour employment; orchard workers; compliance; workforce
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