4 Jun 2009

Seasonal worker scheme changed

1:42 pm on 4 June 2009

Workers in the Recognised Seasonal Employers' Scheme must pay for health insurance under changes announced by the Government, and will have more flexibilty to move between employers.

Immigration Minister Jonathan Coleman on Wednesday announced the changes to the scheme, which allows growers to hire workers from the Pacific Islands.

Employers will be responsible for arranging health insurance for the employees, who are not eligible for free healthcare during their stay, but the cost will be meet by workers.

Horticulture New Zealand chief executive Peter Silcock says many employers already arrange cover.

The Labour Party's associate spokesperson for Labour, Darien Fenton, says changes to the scheme allowing employers to make certain pay deductions will reduce pay rates below the minimum wage of $12.50 an hour.

In addition to the current scheme, Dr Coleman announced a Supplementary Seasonal Employment scheme which will allow employers to recruit people already in New Zealand on visitor permits.

He says the new Supplementary Seasonal Employment permits will be for six months.

Dr Coleman says 7,000 workers were brought into the country by 138 accredited employers last year and 80% of those workers returned this season.