Sector agreement should help address labour shortages

A sector agreement should go a long way to addressing the significant labour shortages in New Zealand’s meat processing sector, says the Meat Industry Association (MIA).

The Government’s new sector agreement with the industry includes access to migrant workers for entry-level red meat processing roles at $24.00 per hour with a cap on the number of visas. This will be replaced with a Pacific programme from 2024.

Migrants taking up these places will receive seven-month visas and the wage threshold will be updated each year to reflect changes in the median wage to maintain its relative value.

“Labour shortages have been a significant issue for the meat processing sector for some time so this agreement is a welcome boost to our own domestic recruitment efforts,” says Sirma Karapeeva, chief executive of the MIA.

“Without sufficient employees, processors cannot run plants to the desired capacity, fully process all products and capture the maximum value.  

“For example, the shortage of skilled knife people means that a reduced number of cuts can be prepared for the high value chilled market and the product is exported as frozen at a lower value. By-products are also sent to rendering instead of further processing.

“This deprives processors and farmers of revenue but also rural communities and the New Zealand economy of income.

“Meat processors are predominantly based in the regions so enabling meat processors to operate at their desired capacity will provide additional money to the communities where they are located.”

The industry is committed to training and employing New Zealanders first and works closely with the Ministry for Social Development and regional agencies to recruit people from local communities to work in plants, says Ms Karapeeva.

“However, we struggle to fill roles and the meat processing sector is approximately 2,000 employees short at present. That means we must recruit a limited number of people from overseas. Less than five per cent of our workforce is from abroad.

“Ultimately, labour shortages mean fewer shifts and training opportunities for New Zealand workers.”

As part of any agreement, the meat industry will be seeking assurances any visas for overseas migrants will be processed without undue delay.

“We also look forward to working with the Government on Workforce Transition Plans and Industry Transformation Plans,” says Ms Karapeeva.

“The meat processing sector, with 25,000 people, is New Zealand’s largest manufacturing industry, offering modern technology, training, career progression and competitive wages.

“The measures announced by the Government will help us unlock further value and deliver even greater benefits to the New Zealand economy.

For further information, please contact:
Sirma Karapeeva
021 256 5347