web analytics

Wait, what’s the RSE?

Written By: - Date published: 3:46 pm, October 22nd, 2008 - 38 comments
Categories: economy, election 2008, national, racism, workers' rights - Tags:

OK, we’ve reported on, given historical context to, and mocked Lockwood Smith’s racist comments about seasonal migrant workers. Now, to the substance of what Smith as saying, ie that fewer permits issued under the Recognised Seasonal Employer Scheme (RSE) should be allocated to people from the Pacific Islands (because, he says, other people are smaller and more hygienic). That’s a fundamental misunderstanding of what the RSE is for.

As it happens, I was working in the Diplomatic Corp when the RSE was being developed and am more familiar with multilateral temporary migration agreement negotiations than I care to be.  It was pushed by the Pacific Island countries who wanted more remittances and to up-skill their work-force, and by the agriculture industries here and in Aussie, who want more labour but are too cheap to pay decent wages. 

Basically, what happens under the RSE is Australia and NZ take a bunch of seasonal workers, primarily from the Pacific, for agricultural work (with protections that are meant to make sure domestic labour isn’t displaced by the migrant workers). Eleven Pacific Island nations from the Pacific Islands Forum organise pools of workers to come over under the RSE. Workers from other countries only get permits when there are not suitable workers available from the Islands.

 It is essentially an aid programme for the Pacific (‘our’ payoff being cheap labour) and that’s why most of the workers are from the Islands. Change that, as Smith is proposing, and you take away the point of the scheme. It then becomes just a way for agriculture to undercut local workers.

38 comments on “Wait, what’s the RSE? ”

  1. vidiot 1

    Ahh this would be the aRSE scheme that came under fire earlier this year when it was found that some of the employers were abusing the RSE program.

    “The Department of Labour says the case of 22 Kiribati workers living in one house while working in Marlborough vineyards was the worst overcrowding it has come across. The workers were among 70 Pacific Islands workers who arrived in New Zealand under the Recognised Seasonal Employer (RSE) scheme in May to work on vineyards, but they were sent home early when the work finished – leaving them out of pocket.”

    Source: http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10529512

    iirc the net take home pay for the workers once they left NZ worked out to be around 50 cents an hour – nothing to be proud of in that scheme.

  2. yeah, it has been abused in some cases.. that’s always the concern when yo’re dealing with employers who are too cheap to pay market rates in the first place

  3. Ben R 3

    “It is essentially an aid programme for the Pacific (‘our’ payoff being cheap labour) and that’s why most of the workers are from the Islands. Change that, as Smith is proposing, and you take away the point of the scheme. It then becomes just a way for agriculture to undercut local workers.”

    Well, the benefit would presumably then be shared with Asian workers who did the jobs prior to the scheme being introduced?

  4. National devising new ways to push down the wages and conditions of the already low-paid is nothing new.

    All spin aside, this example is as good a definition of what that party is REALLY all about as one could hope to find.

  5. randal 5

    why dont they just share the jobs out to people with the smallest hands. thye have the smallest bodies. they eat less and therefore need less money. q.e.d.

  6. Prior to the scheme being introduced, I thought that a lot of the labour in the orchards came from itinerant backpackers working for cash under the table.

    When I worked in Tasman picking apples, backpackers looking for a cash top-up appeared to be a big part of the work force.

  7. Ben R 7

    “When I worked in Tasman picking apples, backpackers looking for a cash top-up appeared to be a big part of the work force.”

    That’s true.

    “National devising new ways to push down the wages and conditions of the already low-paid is nothing new.”

    But the existing scheme already does that? It already undercuts local workers? Also, there are already statutory protections for wages and working conditions (however, as the first post above notes this isn’t necessarily being complied with). Will opening it up to Asian workers change this?

  8. Janet 8

    Are those same employers squashing the workers into unsuitable housing etc the same ones making the racist comments to Lockwood ie the local National Party members and supporters? Perhaps we could boycott their wines?

  9. Felix 9

    randal I reckon midgets might be a good way to go. Might have to get them something to stand on so they can reach the fruit though.

  10. Ben R 10

    “Are those same employers squashing the workers into unsuitable housing etc the same ones making the racist comments to Lockwood ie the local National Party members and supporters? Perhaps we could boycott their wines?”

    Janet, if they find the Asian workers are more productive what are they meant to do? Just avoid the topic?

  11. Daffodil Gal 11

    Ben R:

    “Janet, if they find the Asian workers are more productive what are they meant to do? Just avoid the topic?”

    Actually Ben, yes.

    You see there’s this piece of legislation, I’m not sure if you’ve heard of it, called the Human Rights Act 1993. Among other things, it prohibits discrimination of the basis of “ethnic or national origins, which includes nationality or citizenship”. By favouring “asian” workers, you’re both discriminating unlawfully, AND directly compromising the original intent of Recognised Seasonal Employer policy.

    Policy WH1.1.1 of Immigration New Zealand’s Operations Manual states:

    The objectives of the RSE Policy are to … …

    encourage economic development, regional integration and good governance within the Pacific, by allowing preferential access under RSE Policy to workers who are citizens of eligible Pacific countries;

    So yeah, they avoid the topic. By law.

  12. Sarah 12

    This whole thing with Lockwood Smith is such a beatup. The guy is obviously a git, but what he says is not wrong.

    Asians do on average have smaller hands than polynesians. That is definitely going to help with grape-picking and other tasks of the same sort. I was just watching TV3 and an owner of a vineyard said as much. I don’t know how anyone could honestly be offended by his comments.

    And the comments about the Polynesians are completely true. The sort of people who they bring in from Tonga and Fiji to complete this sort of work are primarily from the rural areas of the pacific islands, and as a result they are not up to date at all with western customs. They live in huts, and are completely isolated from the western world. The employer as a result has to teach them basic western customs, such as how to use a toilet, and how to use a dishwaher.

    Yes his comments were very blunt, and a little stupid in that regard, but they were true nonetheless. But I personally love how this site has supplied multiple postings on this one particular issue, but when the same issues arise for labour, there are barely any posts at all. I only have to think back to the days where we would get one posting a day on the Winston Peters saga when it was at its height, when there were direct calls for his resignation. Instead, we get four posts in one day over such a minor issue as this. Talk about being in Labour’s pocket.

  13. Hey “Sarah” – when you pretend to be a girl do you like, y’know pretend to be a hot girl?

  14. Ben R 14

    “Janet, if they find the Asian workers are more productive what are they meant to do? Just avoid the topic?’

    Nonsense. They are not silenced from expressing an interest in expanding the RSE to include Asian countries (although you appear to favour a kind of Soviet style thought control).

  15. sweetd 15

    “Hey “Sarah’ – when you pretend to be a girl do you like, y’know pretend to be a hot girl?”

    Hey Sod, does that get you hard at night?

    So on topic eh.

  16. Steve Pierson: “It then becomes just a way for agriculture to undercut local workers.”

    Lockwood Smith: “Er, well yes. That’s the idea. What’s your point?”

    Hey, Sarah – was there some post somewhere in the blogosphere that your comment was actually in response to? It doesn’t seem to be answer this one at all.

  17. Daffodil Gal 17

    Ben. People from “asian” countries can already get work permits under TRSE and be recruited for RSE work. The scheme simply favours certain Pacific countries, and RSE employers wanting an Agreement to Recruit (ATR) have to either go to a pacific country to recruit workers, or provide a good reason why they are recruiting from somewhere else. And personally, I don’t think a good reason is “they got little hands”.

    Should the border officers measure the hands of prospective horticulture/viticulture workers? Should Immigration decline applicants with big hands? Perhaps there should be a “western lifestyle competency test” to ensure that employers don’t have to show someone how to flush the dunny? Should New Zealand citizens and residents who are willing to do the work be denied employment because their hands are relatively larger?

    I’d love to see the statistics regarding the relationship between hand size and labour productivity in the horticulture and viticulture industries… Anyone?

    ‘Sod: LMAOROFL

  18. Sarah 18

    “mocked Lockwood Smith’s racist comments about seasonal migrant workers”

    I thought it was in response to that particular comment Psycho Milt.

  19. sweetd 19

    “I’d love to see the statistics regarding the relationship between hand size and labour productivity in the horticulture and viticulture industries Anyone?”

    Further more, asian against pacific islands? Or is that non PC?

  20. Or they could get more workers the traditional way, pay higher wages.

    Its stupid really, they haven’t got a shortage of workers, its that at the wages offered and the labour they can get for those wages, the equilibrium is to not pick all the fruit. Pretty simple, if they want more workers, then they should pay them more, how ever with the price they get for the fruit they are better off not picking all the fruit.

    The problem occurs when a loud group of farmers gets the ear of the media, who can’t resist a “fruit rotting on the trees” story.

  21. randal 21

    Sarah how do you know that people with smaller hands are better grape pickers?

  22. Sarah 22

    I don’t know from personal experience, but there have been accounts in the media (TV3) where wine-growers have supported this theory. And if you have smaller hands then presumably you’ll be more nimble with smaller items.

  23. Ben R 23

    “Should the border officers measure the hands of prospective horticulture/viticulture workers? Should Immigration decline applicants with big hands? Perhaps there should be a “western lifestyle competency test’ to ensure that employers don’t have to show someone how to flush the dunny? Should New Zealand citizens and residents who are willing to do the work be denied employment because their hands are relatively larger?

    I’d love to see the statistics regarding the relationship between hand size and labour productivity in the horticulture and viticulture industries Anyone?”

    Well, I have very large hands and was terrible at pruning & thinning kiwifruit (although that was partly due to sheer laziness). You’re kicking a strawman though. I think one of the points is that previously (based on North & South article from earlier this year) there were Asian workers filling a number of these roles. They came over regularly, so shouldn’t be overlooked particularly as they apparently did an excellent job.

    Another issue is whether the government, seeing it is restricting the source of employees to assist certain countries, should provide more assistance with helping the new recruits adjust to what maybe quite a different culture to what they’re used to.

  24. Ben R 24

    “Sarah
    October 22, 2008 at 7:48 pm

    I don’t know from personal experience, but there have been accounts in the media (TV3) where wine-growers have supported this theory. And if you have smaller hands then presumably you’ll be more nimble with smaller items.”

    I posted this partly tongue in cheek, but in a sporting sense there is actually a view that Asians do have better dexterity:

    “The excavation of an abundance of precise tools in Asia, including needles for sewing clothes to survive cold winters, has led scientists to speculate that Asians were “programmed’ over time to be more dexterous. Studies indicate that East Asians do have the quickest reaction time, which some have speculated may play a role in Asian domination of Ping-Pong.’

    http://www.jonentine.com/reviews/straw_man_of_race.htm

  25. Lampie 25

    Thought it was the National party of New Zealand not the National KKK party of New Zealand

  26. Ben R 26

    “Thought it was the National party of New Zealand not the National KKK party of New Zealand”

    Why would the KKK care whether Asian’s work in Orchards?

  27. Lampie 27

    Why would the KKK care whether Asian’s work in Orchards?

    Give the Nats a chance to get to that next week, Lockwood is bound to think something up

  28. randal 28

    sarah read your adam smith where he compares the large man doing the sewing while a little man does the lugging. every case is different and as most wine growers are tories they will say anything to support lockwood ‘the dork’ smith. so your assertion is just hearsay.

  29. Lampie 29

    if nats get, hope lock’dead’wood is no where near foreign ministry, we be screwed if we did

  30. Felix 30

    Sarah has tiny little dainty nimble hands.

  31. Johnty Rhodes 31

    [troll warning]

    Talking about racism, what about the Maori seats? Enshrined into law even.

    LS is a dick but what he said was what growers told him. Amazing how the truth is considered racist.

    And you know what, Asians have smaller hands on average and some Melanesians would not know a shithouse even if they slept on the crapper!!!!

    [lprent: Ah my mindless troll I’m having fun with at present. Lets try a bit of common sense (well sarcastic – it may penetrate the bone around the brain).

    Actually I suspect what the growers were really asking for was a government handout. There is probably nothing stopping them getting temporary workers from anywhere – provided that they did the work (and cost) of organizing them. The RSE is easier because it largely gets organized by the various (what would you call it) gummint’s. This is provided as part of our aid programmes, and not as a service to some lazy employers who don’t want to spend the effort on their workers.

    So like you they drew out all of the ignorantly stupid stereotyping of the past to try and justify a gummint handout. Of course Lockjaw was (like you) a bit too simple to understand this.

    BTW: Have you read the Policy yet?]

  32. I’m sorry Sarah, but what if the boot was on the other foot, i.e. that young ex-pat Kiwis weren’t employed in bars and pubs in the UK because of their excessive tendency to get over liquored and violent?, and that Asian and Central Europeans were preferred due to their more constructive relationship with alcohol?

    You are missing the boat. By discriminating on race or nationality, noone has to prove that someone is less desirable except by looking at their skin/passport. Racism is racism. Locksmith either personally holds racist views, or endorses the opinions of those who do. In a similar manner, by not punishing him more severely, National is allowing this statement to be a legitimate part of its discourse.

  33. Ben R 33

    “Locksmith either personally holds racist views, or endorses the opinions of those who do.”

    The scheme itself discriminates on the basis of nationality against the Asian workers who previously were involved in this work. They obviously earned a good reputation so it’s not surprising employers would like be able to hire them again.

  34. Johnty Rhodes 34

    Ah yes Iprent, yet another sector wanting a govt handout, we are so conditioned to that now, arn’t we. With still a load of un-employed (and it will grow) maybe we should send those lazy pricks to do the jobs we import labour for. Or is it the average unemployed person in NZ is thicker than the average Malanesian, so they will need to be taught to pick the fruit as well as be taught to have a proper shit.

    Question – where is the new govt going to get the dosh for the handout when the money dries up?

    Ironic Catcha below, corrupt sher, there is no r in she

  35. vidiot 35

    “…and some Melanesians would not know a shithouse even if they slept on the crapper!!!!”

    I remember an excerpt from Eric Rushes Biography (Gold Rush) about Amasio Valance and not knowing what a toilet was. Same book, also had stories of Glen Osborne having a bubble bath with ‘Sunlight’ dish-washing detergent. Was it made up of was it the truth ? Is it racist or is this just the state of our people ? Uneducated, Illiterate, etc etc etc.

  36. Lampie 36

    Pansy Wong must do friut picking as a fund raiser

  37. Ben R 37

    “Pansy Wong must do friut picking as a fund raiser”

    You’re attacking a strawman. No one said that Asians proper role is picking fruit. The point is that workers who previously did the job seem to be shut out under the current scheme.

  38. Lampie 38

    Not me on TV eating humble pie Ben

Recent Comments

Recent Posts

  • Fast-tracked Northland water project will accelerate economic recovery
    The Government has welcomed the decision to approve a new water storage reservoir in Northland, the first of a number of infrastructure projects earmarked for a speedy consenting process that aims to accelerate New Zealand’s economic recovery from Covid-19.  The Matawii Water Storage Reservoir will provide drinking water for Kaikohe, ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    18 hours ago
  • Tokelau Language Week reminds us to stay united and strong
    Staying strong in the face of challenges and being true to our heritage and languages are key to preserving our cultural identity and wellbeing, is the focus of the 2020 Tokelau Language Week. Minister for Pacific Peoples, Aupito William Sio, says this year’s theme, ‘Apoapo tau foe, i nā tāfea ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    6 days ago
  • NZ announces a third P-3 deployment in support of UN sanctions
    The Government has deployed a Royal New Zealand Air Force P-3K2 Orion (P-3) maritime patrol aircraft to support the implementation of United Nations Security Council (UNSC) resolutions imposing sanctions against North Korea, announced Minister of Foreign Affairs Winston Peters and Minister of Defence Ron Mark. “New Zealand has long supported ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    1 week ago
  • Pacific trade and development agreement a reality
    Pacific regional trade and development agreement PACER Plus will enter into force in 60 days now that the required eight countries have ratified it. Trade and Export Growth Minister David Parker welcomed the announcement that the Cook Islands is the eighth nation to ratify this landmark agreement. “The agreement represents ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 weeks ago
  • Securing a pipeline of teachers
    The Government is changing its approach to teacher recruitment as COVID-19 travel restrictions continue, by boosting a range of initiatives to get more Kiwis into teaching. “When we came into Government, we were faced with a teacher supply crisis,” Education Minister Chris Hipkins said. “Over the past three years, we ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 weeks ago
  • Border exceptions for a small number of international students with visas
    The Government has established a new category that will allow 250 international PhD and postgraduate students to enter New Zealand and continue their studies, in the latest set of border exceptions. “The health, safety and wellbeing of people in New Zealand remains the Government’s top priority. Tight border restrictions remain ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 weeks ago
  • First COVID-19 vaccine purchase agreement signed
    The Government has signed an agreement to purchase 1.5 million COVID-19 vaccines – enough for 750,000 people – from Pfizer and BioNTech, subject to the vaccine successfully completing all clinical trials and passing regulatory approvals in New Zealand, say Research, Science and Innovation Minister Megan Woods and Health Minister Chris Hipkins. ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 weeks ago
  • International statement – End-to-end encryption and public safety
    We, the undersigned, support strong encryption, which plays a crucial role in protecting personal data, privacy, intellectual property, trade secrets and cyber security.  It also serves a vital purpose in repressive states to protect journalists, human rights defenders and other vulnerable people, as stated in the 2017 resolution of the ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 weeks ago
  • Ministry of Defence Biodefence Assessment released
    The Ministry of Defence has today released a Defence Assessment examining Defence’s role across the spectrum of biological hazards and threats facing New Zealand. Biodefence: Preparing for a New Era of Biological Hazards and Threats looks at how the NZDF supports other agencies’ biodefence activities, and considers the context of ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 weeks ago
  • New Approaches to Economic Challenges: Confronting Planetary Emergencies: OECD 9 October 2020
    New Approaches to Economic Challenges: Confronting Planetary Emergencies: OECD 9 October 2020 Hon David Parker’s response following Thomas Piketty and Esther Duflo. Good morning, good afternoon, and good evening, wherever in the world you might be. I first acknowledge the excellent thought provoking speeches of Thomas Piketty and Esther ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    3 weeks ago
  • Kaipara Moana restoration takes next step
    A Memorandum of Understanding has been signed today at Waihāua Marae between the Crown, local iwi and councils to protect, restore and enhance the mauri of Kaipara Moana in Northland. Environment Minister David Parker signed the document on behalf of the Crown along with representatives from Ngā Maunga Whakahī, Ngāti ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    3 weeks ago
  • New Zealand and Uruguay unite on reducing livestock production emissions
    Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor and Uruguayan Minister of Livestock, Agriculture and Fisheries Carlos María Uriarte have welcomed the launch of a three-year project that will underpin sustainable livestock production in Uruguay, Argentina, and Costa Rica.  The project called ‘Innovation for pasture management’ is led by Uruguay’s National Institute of Agricultural ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    3 weeks ago
  • 3100 jobs created through marae upgrades
    Hundreds of marae throughout the country will be upgraded through investments from the Provincial Growth Fund’s refocused post COVID-19 funding to create jobs and put money into the pockets of local tradespeople and businesses, Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones and Māori Development Minister Nanaia Mahuta have announced. “A total ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    3 weeks ago
  • Health volunteers recognised in annual awards
    Health Minister Chris Hipkins has announced 9 teams and 14 individuals are the recipients of this year’s Minister of Health Volunteer Awards.  “The health volunteer awards celebrate and recognise the thousands of dedicated health sector volunteers who give many hours of their time to help other New Zealanders,” Mr Hipkins ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    3 weeks ago
  • Community COVID-19 Fund supports Pacific recovery
    The Minister for Pacific Peoples, Aupito William Sio says a total of 264 groups and individuals have successfully applied for the Pacific Aotearoa Community COVID-19 Recovery Fund, that will support Pacific communities drive their own COVID-19 recovery strategies, initiatives, and actions. “I am keen to see this Fund support Pacific ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    3 weeks ago