The Meat Industry Association (MIA) today welcomed the announcement that the meat processing sector has been invited to negotiate with the Government for one of the first sector agreements for immigration.
“Labour shortages have been an ongoing issue for the meat processing sector, which affect our ability to run our plants to the desired capacity and fully process all products,” says MIA chief executive Tim Ritchie.
“That deprives processors and farmers of revenue and rural communities of income.”
The sector is committed to training and employing New Zealanders first and foremost and works closely with the Ministry of Social Development and regional agencies to recruit people from local communities to work in plants.
“However, we still struggle to fill roles from New Zealand’s rural communities and the meat processing sector is approximately 2,000 employees short at present, that’s about eight percent of our workforce. To fill this immediate gap, we must recruit people from overseas.”
A sector agreement is likely to include how the meat industry will attract New Zealanders, improve productivity, offer training and continue to uphold employment standards, says Ritchie.
“The meat processing sector, with 25,000 people, is New Zealand’s largest food manufacturer, offering modern technology, training, career progression and competitive wages.”
The sector is looking forward to sector agreement negotiations with the Government to deliver benefits to the sector, the regions and ultimately, to all New Zealanders, says Ritchie.
“Meat processors are mainly based in the regions, so residential accommodation is available for people coming from overseas. Enabling meat processors to operate at full capacity for the season will provide additional money to the communities in which they operate.”
Employing people from overseas is typically more expensive than employing New Zealanders with additional costs including visa support, travel and pastoral care, he says.
“The MIA has advocated for some time for a tailored scheme for the sector to help meet the employee shortfall.
“It is vital our members have a labour framework and policies which provide flexibility and agility so the sector can respond to the challenges such as unpredictable livestock supply and weather conditions and the opportunities of the dynamic markets we serve.
“The meat processing industry would like to thank the Minister Iain Lees-Galloway for the leadership that he has shown on this issue.”