6 May 2014

Farmers 'need to meet minimum standards'

1:38 pm on 6 May 2014

Farm employment issues will be high on the agenda at Dairy New Zealand's farmers forum in Waikato on Wednesday and Thursday.

Dairy NZ is responding to farmers' requests to provide some practical guidance following a recent survey by labour inspectors found most of the farms checked were breaking employment rules. Most of the breaches related to record-keeping.

The organisation, along with Federated Farmers, is seeking changes to the minimum wage order so farmers can average out their employee's pay over a fortnight rather than a week.

But Dairy NZ's strategy and investment leader for people and business, Mark Paine, says farmers have to improve their performance in complying with employment laws.

"You've got to meet minimum standards at the very least and our view is that the industry should be aspiring to be far better than that. We lead the world in dairy production, we should also be leading the world in terms of employment practices surrounding that."

Dr Paine says improving employment practices on farms is essential if dairy farmers want to attract the staff they need.

There are 35,000 people working on dairy farms.

Dairy New Zealand says the industry needs 1000 graduates a year at diploma level and above to fill positions on farms and another 250 a year for rural professional and science roles both on and off farm.

"We've started to make some really serious progress on this, in the last 18 months. We've observed a jump from about 150 to up to 500 enrolments in the diploma in agribusiness alone, this coming season, which is fantastic."

Dr Paine says the Dairy Farmers Forum, starting at Mystery Creek on Wednesday, will include workshops on employment issues such as timesheets and health and safety.