Labour shortage: Greens co-leader Marama Davidson call for better pay and conditions for critical workers, residency pathways for low-wage migrants

Greens co-leader Marama Davidson is calling for better pay and work conditions for New Zealand's critical workers.

Firefighters, teachers and healthcare staff are all critical workers facing significant staffing shortages.

They are also all ultimately employed by the Government and are calling for better pay and working conditions.

Davidson told AM Early on Thursday the Greens believe the Government should be doing more for our critical workers, who've been vital to the country during the COVID-19 pandemic.

"We believe they need a better deal too and the Greens have long fought for better pay and working conditions for a lot of these workers especially as we have come through COVID-19," she told AM Early fill-in host Nicky Styris.

"We've seen our entire country and our communities depend on the work they're doing, whether that is our nurses and healthcare workers, teachers who are right at the heart of where COVID-19 spreads … and of course our firefighters and other workers who are right at the frontline of doing some of our most dangerous and vital work."

The Professional Firefighters Union members have begun striking, calling for more staff, better working conditions and better pay.

But they're in a deadlock with Fire and Emergency New Zealand, which denies there's a staffing shortage.

The Greens are calling for a review into the breakdown in the relationship between workers and Fire and Emergency management.
"Firefighters often respond to medical emergencies, car accidents and so many traumatic incidents," Davidson said.

"Our Green MPs have been on the ground visiting firefighters around the country and are hearing about their shoddy equipment, about the dangerously long hours and about the breakdown between workers and Fire and Emergency management.

"We are calling for a review, which is what they're also calling for, into the breakdown of that relationship, their shoddy equipment and their hours and pay conditions."

Several sectors are facing an acute labour shortage with a lack of overseas workers being blamed. Industry leaders have been crying out for the Government to make it easier for critical staff to immigrate or get working holiday visas.

Davidson said she agrees with fast-tracking migrants into the country as long as it's an equitable system.

"We support the fast-tracking but not without equitable residency pathways and for example, we see some of the lower-paid migrant workers missing out on the same pathway to residency that perhaps doctors do and that's simply unjust and unfair," Davidson told AM Early.

"I think our country values our care and support workers, the people who look after our family members, and our elderly. There is a heavy concentration of lower-wage migrants in particular sectors and areas and we should be valuing their mahi and their work as much as the doctors we fast track here as well."

Greens co-leader Marama Davidson.
Greens co-leader Marama Davidson. Photo credit: AM

Davidson told AM Early we need to make sure we don't create a two-tier system, which values higher-wage workers.

"So it's about working conditions, which we know will make a sector attractive and especially for fast-tracking our migrant workers in here," she said.

"I think what we've heard from other politicians and other political parties is that they're all good to fast-track them here, but they want to keep them on low pay once they get here and that's not acceptable at all, especially for our lower-end, low-wage migrant workers because we end up setting up a two-tier immigration system that rewards high salary workers and puts lower-wage migrants on lower conditions, lesser tracks for residency and what does it say about the sectors that we care about?"

Watch the full interview with Marama Davidson above.