Our response to this week's reports about employment breaches in the kiwifruit industry.

Kiwifruit Employment

This week the Labour Inspectorate reported that half of the labour hire contractors they inspected in the kiwifruit industry in the Bay of Plenty region were breaching their obligations as employers.

Te Tumu Paeroa support a number of kiwifruit orchards in the Bay of Plenty region and have appointed orchard managers to make day-to-day decisions about the orchards’ operations.  We apply rigorous best practice in vetting for any contractors so that we meet our duty of care as a professional trustee.

Our orchard managers take our duties as an employer and contractor seriously. We have an expectation of highest quality that extends all down the supply-line, and includes any labour hire companies that are engaged to supply seasonal workers.

Following the reports about employment breaches our orchard managers contacted us with information to share with land owners concerned about workers on their orchards. 

Information from OPAC

  • OPAC has had a long-term approach to employment, with the vast majority of staff employed directly rather than through labour supply contractors.
  •  Labour contractors, when they are engaged, have to provide evidence to support compliance with all employment laws.
  • Contractors who fail in any compliance area are never engaged.
  • OPAC has comprehensive reporting and auditing of payroll practices.
  • As a government accredited employer of foreign employees through the Recognised Seasonal Employer Scheme (RSE), and also backpackers and migrants on working visas, OPAC is required to meet the highest standards of employment and immigration compliance.

 Information from Southern Cross Horticulture

·         We’re committed to being a Living Wage employer.

·         We’re audited for all employment practices.

·         We have Global Gap certification which demonstrates our commitment to advancing Good Agricultural Practice.

·         Our contracts are also Global Gap compliant.

·         Contractors who fail in any compliance area are never engaged. 

Information from EastPack

  • EastPack and its growers budget enough for all orchard tasks so contractors have the ability to pay their staff the amount owed to them, and earn a fair margin for their business to be viable.
  • Any contractor must supply relevant business information before commencing work (e.g. company registration, IRD details).
  • All staff are checked to hold appropriate working status (e.g. NZ citizen, working holiday visa etc. and valid IRD details).
  • Contractors are required to keep records of employee work hours. If staff are paid under a contract then both contract details and hours worked are kept.
  • EastPack have a checking process to ensure that all staff who are paid contract rates’ daily/weekly earnings meet New Zealand’s minimum wage for hours worked.

 Jamie Tuuta, the Māori Trustee, said, “Like every organisation in the horticulture industry we work with our contractors and subcontractors to ensure that they fully comply with employment standards and that any workers on our orchards are treated fairly. We support government and industry stakeholders’ work to address the issues this investigation has raised with labour contractors and ensure compliance with employment legislation across the industry.

 “The kiwifruit industry is making record profits. There’s no excuse for workers in the industry to be exploited.”