A union is hitting back at recent claims by kiwifruit employers that wages are now as high as $60 an hour, calling it "total nonsense".
The union's comments in turn sparked a strong rebuttal from kiwifruit industry leader Seeka, which says what the union is saying is entirely wrong.
First Union said it is currently in collective bargaining with Seeka, which it says has revealed most workers are still on low wages.
"Despite the rosy picture and fanciful claims by horticulture employers, most Seeka workers have not even received a pay increase in line with inflation this year."
Seeka chief executive Michael Franks told Stuff yesterday that pack-house wages had been lifted to $24 an hour but First Union strategic project coordinator Anita Rosentreter says that isn't entirely true.
"The company has admitted to us that $1.25 of that is a seasonal allowance because of the border closure and it'll be shaved off after this harvest."
"Trimming workers' pay from one year to the next while inflation surges is a big slap in the face," Rosentreter added.
Rosentreter says the industry only has themselves to blame for "a so-called labour shortage".
"The industry is playing fast and loose about the truth about pay rates and has only themselves to blame for a so-called labour shortage, there's a shortage of decent jobs in the industry, not a shortage of good workers."
Franks in turn told Newshub First Union's comments are "nonsense" and "they only represent 16 of more than 3500 workers".
"Their comments are a breach of good faith bargaining because we are in a bargaining process with them."
Franks rejected Rosentreter's comments that the seasonal allowance will be shaved off.
"We never said it will be shaved off after harvest," he said. "No one is getting paid under $24 in our company."
Franks issued a stern warning.
"They are best not to negotiate with us through the media."