Pacific seasonal workers

Fitness group unites Flaxmere community to help displaced RSE Workers

Tagata Pasifika reports the group launched two years ago, offering free fitness classes in Flaxmere, where Pacific people account for around 30% of the population.

But when the deluge hit the region last week, founder Viliamu Malaitai says the group felt compelled to assist the Pasifika victims, mostly RSE workers, who had lost their homes and possessions.

“As we know, these guys come from overseas, so they only have what they have, and to lose what they have, which is the bare minimum, it’s quite sad really,” Malaitai says.

Cyclone-hit Pacific workers well cared for but worried about work

Alusio Kaloudau, a team leader of a Fijian Recognised Seasonal Employer (RSE) group, said they are staying in Flaxmere Community Centre in Hastings in Hawke's Bay on the east coast.

RNZ Pacific reports during and after the storm the group of 21 workers were forced to move into three different shelters.

Kaloudau said his team was told to "just relax" by one of the RSE caretakers when they arrived at the first shelter.

After cyclone, songs of praise and gratitude ring out in church halls across Hawke's Bay

Pacific churches have been sanctuaries for Pacific RSE workers in the region, some of whom were clinging desperately to rooftops surrounded by raging waters during the height of the flooding.

RNZ reports Cyclone Gabrielle has robbed them of the few possessions they owned, but their faith remains.

Hastings Pasifika community leader Tofilau Talalelei Taufale said that RSE workers in the region are among those worst affected by the extreme weather events. He is currently on the ground, helping the workers who have been left homeless.

“A real tragedy”: Hawke’s Bay Pacific leader describes aftermath of Cyclone Garbielle

At least five people have died in Hawke’s Bay, including a child. As of today the government estimates 10,500 people have been displaced and 1442 are uncontactable in the region.

Tagata Pasifika reports Napier is expected to have no power for at least two weeks and the communication line is not fully restored. 

However, emergency power has been provided at a medical centre where community leader, Tofilau Talalelei Taufale is able to provide an update on the situation. 

Seasonal workers 'ripped off and exploited' – NZ union boss

A report this week by the Equal Employment Opportunities Commissioner says workers paying $150 to live in crowded unhealthy homes in the middle of winter. 

The Commissioner Saunoamaali'i Karanina Sumeo witnessed it first hand after travelling undercover to Blenheim last month to investigate the work and living conditions of the workers.​

Labour migration expert says Pacific seasonal workers reluctant to complain

The comments from Australian National University's Dr Rochelle Bailey come after a number of Pacific island workers appeared at a federal parliamentary inquiry into allegations of worker abuse under the Pacific Labour Mobility scheme.

Speaking at the inquiry, Vanuatu worker Sergio said conditions became so bad on his farm that he and some other workers stayed at home on strike for a week.

"I called the union to come and help us to buy the food," Sergio told the inquiry.

[My employer] come in and forced us to go to work and I said 'No'."

New wage regulations welcomed by Pacific seasonal workers

Australia's Fair Work Commission announced last week that employers would be required to pay seasonal workers a mandatory minimum piece rate of AUD$25.41 an hour.

The President of the Tonga Australia Seasonal Workers Association Falepaini Maile said they look forward to the pay rise scheduled for April 28th.

"Workers are quite happy. When we put the article up on our Tonga Australia Seasonal Workers Association Facebook page, some of them were commenting and said why don't they start now, so they're desperate for when the increase will start," he said.


Pandemic presents big challenges for Pacific seasonal workers

New Zealand has a new one-way travel bubble with Pacific island countries such as Samoa, Vanuatu and Tonga.

Vaccinated RSE workers from these countries can come to New Zealand without self-isolating or taking Covid-19 tests on arrival, after the one-way quarantine-free travel took effect last week.

Up to 5,000 workers are needed across the horticulture and viticulture industries during peak summer season in December and January.

The usual supply of backpackers to New Zealand's recognised seasonal workers scheme remains cut off due to Covid-19 border restrictions.

Rewarding work for returning Pacific seasonal labour?

The Study, involving more than 480 research participants, examined some of the RSE scheme’s social and economic impacts in six New Zealand communities and in five participating Pacific countries. It was completed in early 2020 and provides a pre-COVID perspective on impacts of RSE participation.

Call for NZ to turn to Pacific for more seasonal workers

The chair of the PCF, John Fiso, said New Zealand could provide financial support for Pacific people who were suffering because their economies were tanking, while also ensuring the valuable fruit crop was harvested.

One estimate is that New Zealand is 60,000 workers short this season.

Fiso said he could understand the government's wish that unemployed New Zealanders step in, but he said there were also other issues to consider.