New meat industry recruitment drive for Muslim employees

Indonesia meat industry recruitment
The final 24 skilled Muslim employees selected for the AsureQuality training session in Indonesia.

A new in-market recruitment initiative has been trialled in Indonesia by the red meat industry to find skilled Muslim employees.

The red meat industry is on a mission to find skilled labour throughout the chain, but especially for the qualified Muslim employees needed to undertake the halal processing required for the 40 percent of its exports that are halal-certified each year.  Numbers working in the sector total around 250 – one percent of the industry’s total 25,000 workforce – and their skills are highly valued by the meat companies. However, finding suitably trained Muslim replacements in regional New Zealand, where most of the processing plants are sited, has been very difficult despite significant efforts to recruit domestically. For that reason, the meat industry is trying a new tack and trialling a new recruitment drive in-market for the first time.

A small Meat Industry Association (MIA)-led team has been in Indonesia for a four-day pilot, working alongside a local recruitment agency, two trainers from AsureQuality and with the support of the New Zealand Embassy in Jakarta, “which gave the exercise good standing and mana,” explains MIA economic trade and policy manager Sirma Karapeeva.

“There was plenty of interest, both from potential applicants and real interest from the meat companies who would like to employ them,” she reports.

Out of the many applicants around 28 were selected for interview and 24 chosen for two days of AsureQuality training to New Zealand’s halal standards.

Karapeeva says there is a mutual benefit in terms of filling positions here and for the applicants: “They are very keen to develop their skill-sets, so this training puts them at the top-end in expertise.”

The workers are now ready to start going through the immigration process under the Indonesia Special Work Visa provisions, negotiated as part of the ASEAN free trade agreement, to get their three-year work visas.

“There has been a whole host of challenges with operationalising that provision which meant that we had to take the training to Indonesia rather than here in New Zealand,” she says. “So far, it’s worked really well. Most have been snapped up already by meat companies, so they will have the necessary documentation to support their applications.”

The exercise will be reviewed to see whether it has produced the desired outcomes for the industry.

“We want to see these people settled and working here in New Zealand first and then review the process, before committing to another year,” says Karapeeva.

Compassionate response

The meat industry’s response in early April to set up a special fund to benefit those affected by the Christchurch attacks in New Zealand showed Muslim employees here, and also those wanting to work here, a compassionate and supportive side to the industry.

Alliance Group, Silver Fern Farms, AFFCO New Zealand and ANZCO Foods worked with their farmer suppliers to donate the proceeds of livestock or a sum of money to the MIA Halal Community Response Trust. The funds will be distributed to the “Our People, Our City Fund”, part of the Christchurch Foundation.

“I would like to think it helped show the industry as a whole was very compassionate about this,” says Karapeeva. “Also, a number of plants were very flexible allowing staff time off to attend funerals and manage their grieving processes. It showcased they are not just employees, they are part of our community.”

A familiar face on the TV in the aftermath of the attacks was AgResearch meat scientist and food technologist Mustafa Farouk, in his role as chair of the Federation of Islamic Associations of New Zealand.

“The Kiwi family togetherness and connectedness that became obvious over the weeks following the event is something that all New Zealanders should be proud of and it is something we can export to the rest of the world,” he says.

“New Zealand can lead the way in promoting love, peace and justice for humanity at large.”

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