Zealand farms are clamouring for more Samoans to come pick fruits in their orchards.
And farms which do not have Samoans working in their orchards are quietly relaying to Samoan officials their wish to employ Samoans under the soon-to-be-9000 seasonal worker (RSE) numbers cap.
“Our Samoan workers have been a boon for our business,” says Apple CEO Andrew Van Workum.
“They’re strong, keen, organised and willing to work. They come here with a willingness to work, to earn money to take back home and are prepared to put in the long hours.”
“Since 2008 when we started hiring Samoan workers, there certainly has been an upswing in our business. We’ are planting more orchards and more fruit trees and are certainly looking forward at increasing our RSE quota of Samoan workers in years to come.”
Apple – with hundreds of hectares of apple orchards in the Napier-Hastings region – is the biggest Samoan RSE employer in New Zealand. This year it recruited 423 Samoan recruits – accounting for nearly half its RSE workforce.
Average RSE wages at Apple this year is NZ$17,212 (WST$33,523) with the highest earner taking back to Samoa NZ$24,232 (WST$47,208) for a six-month stint.
Under New Zealand labour law, New Zealand employers are obligated to pay RSE workers at least NZ$1.25 more than the minimum wage of NZ$13.25 (WST25.81) an hour.
At neighbouring Yummy Fruit Company, the owner had praise for every one of its 100 RSE Samoan workers.
“Since hiring Samoans in 2008, our business has had an average 15 percent growth every year and recruitment of Samoan RSE workers have shot up to 300 percent,” says farm owner Mr John Painter.
“We are planting 125 hectares of fruit trees and certainly will hire more Samoan workers.”
During the visit to Apple on Wednesday morning, Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi and his delegation were welcomed in an ava ceremony hosted by Samoan RSE workers there.
The Prime Minster used the opportunity to again hammer home the need for all RSE employees to work hard and behave themselves on the farms.
“You came here with the sole purpose of earning good wages to take home to your families in Samoa,” he told the large gathering.
“Make full use of it. Many others like you in Samoa would love the opportunity you now have. Work hard and stay away from alcohol. Behave yourselves and abide by your contract obligations. Be careful of other Samoans here in New Zealand who come and fool you with false promises. At the end of your contracts, you will all go back to Samoa to your families waiting for you.
“Do not spoil this opportunity for yourselves and for others in Samoa. This programme is too important to the development of families in Samoa and will have zero tolerance for any misbehaviour that will jeopardise it.”
The Prime Minister and his delegation has been visiting farms in Nelson in the South Island and Hawkes Bay, talking to farm employers and RSE employees alike. Discussing how the RSE programme can be further improved and what Samoa needs to do to take advantage of employment opportunities created in the booming New Zealand horticulture and viticulture industry.
An industry that has grown from NZ$5 billion six years ago to NZ$12 billion today with bold predictions of going up to NZ$30 billion in five years….
AUCKLAND, (TALAMUA ONLINE/ SAVALI NEWS)