Labour inspectors keeping close eye on Hawke's Bay orchards

Labour inspectors will be visiting orchards in the Hawke's Bay this week, making sure apple growers are paying their employees correctly and keeping accurate records.

It comes as the industry faces a massive worker shortage, with apple and pear growers warning of export revenue losses of around $100 million due to a lack of pickers and packers.

Labour Inspectorate regional manager Kevin Finnegan said inspectors would be doing random checks on orchards in the area to make sure employees are receiving the correct entitlements and accurate records are being kept to show compliance.

Employers with a recorded history of employment issues would be targeted, he said.

Finnegan said the horticulture industry was a priority area for the Inspectorate - a part of the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) - with efforts underway to raise compliance with minimum employment standards.

"One of the focus areas for this year's visits is to check that the industry assurance programmes are working as they should."

He said as well as complying with all the legal requirements for their own employees, businesses also needed to undertake due diligence before using labour contractors.

"Failure to provide employees with their minimum legal entitlements impacts the sector's ability to recruit and retain workers. 

"Employers who breach employment law are also banned from recruiting new migrants from overseas. That also prevents them from recruiting workers under the recognised seasonal employers scheme."

Finnegan said poor employment practices not only jeopardise domestic sales and exports, but also "undercut the majority of employers who do the right thing".

Anyone concerned about their employment situation is urged to call MBIE's contact centre on 0800 20 90 20.