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Back to the news list Thousands of seasonal workers stranded in NZ as wo
25 June 2020 - Media Release - Stuff NZ

Thousands of recognised seasonal workers (RSE's) are stranded in New Zealand while options are worked on to get them home.

The Royal NZ Air Force has come to the rescue of more than 1000 seasonal workers who were desperate to get home to help rebuild their cyclone-devastated communities, but thousands of others remain.

With no commercial flights available, the Vanuatu Government requested assistance from New Zealand to help get the workers home. But many workers from Samoa and Tonga have no choice but to wait.

New Zealand Apples and Pears chief executive Allan Pollard said the organisation was working with the New Zealand Government and island governments on getting workers home to their families.


"These workers obviously want to get home to their loved ones and take the money they've earned home too, which is what their communities rely on, so not only are we trying to get them home as quickly as possible, we're doing our best to look after them while they're here."

"Obviously the islands are worried about the potential risk of importing Covid-19 so they're just making sure all the pre-cautions are taken, so we're working with them directly to make sure a plan is being put in place," Pollard said.

Seasonal workers from Vanuatu finally getting to go home after the Air Force came to the rescue.
RNZAF/SUPPLIED
Seasonal workers from Vanuatu finally getting to go home after the Air Force came to the rescue.

While there were concerns about transmission, Pollard said there were also concerns of potential risk of health facilities within the islands.

"They need to be able to quarantine people, and as we've seen in New Zealand it puts a burden on quarantine facilities, and then they need to make sure their health facilities can cope just in case."

"Our aim is to have a process in place which gives them confidence to mitigate that risk."

Pollard said there were still about two-and-a-half thousand workers across New Zealand seeking flights home.

Harvest for apples had come to an end, leaving seasonal workers employed in that sector with little to no work.

"In other industries like wine, they're still ramping up and a number have been transferred to other regions. Some workers from Hawke's Bay have been moved down to Marlborough, but there's a limitation on where workers are allowed to work, as the contracts are for horticulture and viticulture."

Pollard said due to the workers contracts, they were not able to work for other sectors that didn't involve horticulture or viticulture.

NZ Apples and Pears was working alongside employers who contracted the seasonal workers to inform them of progress and next steps to get them home.

New Zealand Apples & Pears chief executive Alan Pollard said the organisation is working with the islands and the NZ government to get seasonal workers home.
SUPPLIED
New Zealand Apples & Pears chief executive Alan Pollard said the organisation is working with the islands and the NZ government to get seasonal workers home.

"Each employer is then engaging with their workers about what's happening. Their own governments are also communicating with them, so it's working from both sides."

Fiona Whiteridge, general manager at Refugee and Migrant Service at Immigration New Zealand, said had was helping seasonal workers to move to other employers or regions if their existing employment was ending.

"RSE visa holders can choose whether to accept the offer of further employment. The new employer must provide the RSE worker with all the details of the new work , ensure the move is safe, as well as submit an application to Immigration New Zealand and pay any associated fees."

Immigration New Zealand said if the offer of new work was rejected or if there was no work available, workers were expected to return home as soon as borders open.

If they were experiencing financial difficulty, they were to contact their high commission or consulate for assistance.

"Air New Zealand has a commercial flight to Samoa every two weeks and Samoan nationals who wish to take a flight back to Samoa should contact Air New Zealand and the Samoan High Commission."


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