RSE workers required ASAP
In the last edition I posted an article in regards to the huge shortage of willing pickers in Queensland. I ‘tongue and cheek’ suggested “Hopefully, the powers that be, are well aware and have a watchful eye on what has happened in Australia, to quickly come up with short term solutions”. The day after another headline hit regarding the potential massive shortage of orchard workers this season. (see link at bottom of the page)
Recently I met with a greenhouse grower desperately trying to hire three new full-time workers. There has been quite a few enquires but yet no one is willing or been suitable to fill the positions. One potential worker, who had been offered the job, rang the grower to say they could not make it to work until they had received their benefit payment, so they had money to fill their vehicle with fuel. Unfortunately, this was an excuse as the person did not turn up at all to work.
Most new employees, to the industry, will be offered an hourly rate on or just above the minimum wage. New staff are trained and become skilled. Employees, that apply themselves should be able to achieve higher remuneration in a relatively short amount of time. Workers are also offered secure fulltime positions, with the ability to work extended hours, if desired during crop cycles, when required.
So why don’t Kiwis want to work in a greenhouse?
Simply, they don’t have to, the incentive is just not worth it compared to the alternative. I am not sure what the alternative is but it appears being unemployed is the better option. Despite the economy being hit hard and unemployment rising it will not be enough to solve the labour shortage issue for the Horticulture sector.
Attention to Growing
Growing a crop successfully takes lots of attention and detailed analysis from growers. If that attention is diverted from growing a crop, due to labour shortage issues, then ultimately the crop may suffer from the distraction. It’s fantastic we have such amazing product groups that are trying to work with Government but even with that resource, growers are still being diverted from what they should be doing and that is growing.
The Tech Wave
This year, has highlighted the increasing need for new robotic technology. Currently and short term, there is real uncertainty in regards to the availability of workers that are willing to prune and harvest produce. Future automation and the replacement of manual jobs is becoming increasingly important. Robotic pickers are a prime example. If, in the future, growers are still unable to source locals and RSE’s are capped, or simply cannot enter NZ, then growers have two choices, adapt or let their fruit rot on the ground.
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Article Written and compiled by Stefan Vogrincic, Consultant, Grower2Grower
Article Edited by Marie Vogrincic, Editor, Grower2Grower