The government’s proposed changes to temporary work visas will have a major impact on New Zealand’s commercial cleaning sector, according to Building Service Contractors NZ (BSCNZ) CEO Sarah McBride.
The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment has been consulting on plans to improve the system for employer-assisted work visas – the process by which employers can hire skills from overseas if they are unavailable in New Zealand.
MBIE’s proposals include requiring some migrant workers to be paid at least the median wage, and highly-skilled migrant workers to be paid at least 150 per cent of the median wage for their occupation.
McBride told INCLEAN NZ the commercial cleaning industry is dependent upon immigrant workers and would need to continue to have access to them for many businesses to remain viable.
“Research from Stats NZ shows that our industry is female dominated (69 per cent), 24 per cent are aged 50-59, followed by 22 per cent aged 40 to 49,” she said.
“We have a labour shortage issue now, which will only become more of an issue when these age groups start to retire or work fewer hours.
“Of the New Zealand resident cleaners that work within our industry fewer than half work more than 30 hours a week (39 per cent). Current low unemployment rates also makes it difficult to find labourers.”
McBride said BSCNZ agrees the process should be employer lead, but that employers should have to prove that they are an ethical employer before they gain access to immigrant workers.
“Protecting vulnerable workers when they enter this country should be a priority within these changes,” she said. “Many immigrants do not understand their rights under New Zealand employment law and this is being taken advantage of.”
The government’s proposed changes include:
- introducing a new framework for all employer-assisted temporary work visas which will be employer-led, rather than migrant-led, and will simplify the system by reducing the number of application pathways into one enhanced framework
- replacing the Essential Skills in Demand Lists with Regional Skills Shortage Lists to better reflect the skill shortages that exist in the regions and provide a stronger signal to temporary migrants of opportunities in regional areas
- introducing sector agreements to ensure longer-term structural issues are addressed, so that sectors or industries do not become reliant on migrant labour, at the risk of shutting out opportunities to New Zealanders
- improving alignment of the immigration, welfare, and education systems to improve how we work together to increase the employment of New Zealanders and deliver better labour market outcomes for New Zealand.
BusinessNZ CEO Kirk Hope said the proposals for new requirements for work visas need fine-tuning, and are causing concern among regional employers
“MBIE is proposing a regional approach to immigration, and under this approach we think the rules should take into account regional wage levels,” he said.
“Migrant pay rates should be pegged at the average rate for their occupation and region.”
Hope added business was keen to work with MBIE to ensure that new policy settings bring a more nuanced approach to immigration that also supports the many New Zealand businesses facing skill shortages.
“A well performing immigration system that is responsive to labour market needs is critical to New Zealand businesses maintaining their global competitive advantage.”
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