20 Oct 2014

Migrant visas too rigid, says Dairy NZ

2:07 pm on 20 October 2014

The dairy industry is considering trying to persuade the government into making migrant work visas more flexible, Dairy NZ's annual conference heard.

At Dairy NZ's annual conference in Timaru, Canterbury dairy farmer Michael Ussher called on the rural sector to lobby the government to make the employment of foreign workers in the dairy industry easier.

Mr Ussher said the current migrant work visa system is too rigid.

"I would like to see Dairy NZ and Federated Farmers go to the Government and make it a lot easier for these migrant workers to be able to shift and remain in New Zealand and work on our farms.

"I think it's extremely important because in Canterbury there is a chronic shortage of staff at the moment and when we advertise we only get one reply - and that shows you how desperate things are out there."

He said that puts huge pressure on other staff and management.

Tim Mackle chief executive of Dairy NZ said migrant workers are invaluable and account for about 10 percent of the workforce.

He too, is aware of problems with the current work permit system.

"We'll certainly be looking to work with others like Federated Farmers to make sure that we have the right system in place so New Zealand can run this well."

He said other industries, in horticulture such as kiwifruit do this very well.

Federated Farmers and Dairy NZ successfully lobbied the government this year to change minimum wage laws so dairy farmers could avoid overtime payments by allowing them to pay their workers on a fortnightly rather than weekly basis.

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