The Restaurant Association recently completed a submission on behalf of our members and the industry on the proposals to change the framework for employer-assisted visas.
Overall we welcome the review of temporary work visas and the stated intention to streamline visa applications and simplify the system. The Association supports the objective to place more New Zealanders into jobs, which help these businesses to grow. Consultation with our members has shown they are eager to place more New Zealanders into jobs, however a raft of challenges remain.
The primary frustration is an ever growing burden of compliance costs associated with running a business in New Zealand, and we reinforce that this must be managed.
“The financial pressures these changes would put on small profit struggling businesses who are facing increasing compliance costs all over the place is huge.” Association Member 10, Survey March 2019
We want to tautoko the Minister’s commitment to working with his colleagues in the Education, Social Development and Employment portfolios. Given the far-reaching impact these three departments have on the day-to-day operations of our sector businesses, increased frontline, ‘real world’ interaction with officials from these departments would be welcome.
In addition the Association wholeheartedly supports the Government’s endeavours to tackle labour exploitation. Temporary workers are entitled to the same wages and conditions as New Zealanders. We ask the Government to remain measured: to not be overly punitive on the vast majority of New Zealander businesses and workers doing the right thing, in its efforts to catch the small minority acting illegally.
“As an employer of temp labour for many years, we have been made aware of some very irresponsible practises by some previous employers. Some form of accountability regarding the application and management of migrant labour is appropriate.” Association Member 7, Survey March 2019
We also wish to object to a number of the underlying presumptions and statements in the consultation discussion paper (discussion paper) at the outset.
The Association does not agree:
- that employers are the main beneficiary of migration. Many other groups benefit, including migrants themselves, and those communities affected by migrants’ contributions to New Zealand, such as global connectedness and the strengths of having a diverse society;
- that migrant workers displace New Zealand workers. We do not believe the evidence provided in the consultation document is persuasive. Studies and reports1 have found fears of negative labour market impacts from high migration are often overstated. Employers in both the hospitality and tourism industries have repeatedly emphasised their preference is to employ New Zealanders and supplement with migrant workers when there are no suitable New Zealanders available.
The Association is concerned:
- the changes have a stated intention of putting upwards pressure on wages and conditions. Immigration settings should be used to address labour supply shortages, and not as an artificial – and almost certainly unsuccessful – means to put pressure on wages rates;
- the proposals may force or coerce employers to employ New Zealanders in positions they are unsuitable for. New Zealand is one of the most educated countries in the world, with over half the population over age 35 holding a level 4 qualification or higher. As a result, there are growing shortages for ‘lower-skilled’ jobs that New Zealanders do not want to do. We consider many skills are in short supply in New Zealand and that individuals who are not currently in work are, for a variety of reasons, unwilling or not capable of taking available jobs.
We encourage the Government to look at the reality of the hospitality industry, not only in a local context but also internationally. As demonstrated by global shortages of key talent in our industry, the challenges being faced here in New Zealand are not unique.
In addition, members can access a free webinar recording of the update held by the RA on 25 March – Update on Employer Assisted Visas and Proposed Changes. Go to the shop, to access your recording.