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Letter to Minister of Immigration – re immigration settings impacting hospitality recovery

posted on

6 August 2020

To: Hon Kris Faafoi  – Minister of Immigration

Tēnā koe Minister

Immigration settings impacting hospitality recovery

As the new Minister of Immigration, I am writing to bring to your attention a number of matters relating to the Government’s current immigration settings, and provide feedback from our Members on how Immigration New Zealand (INZ) decisions are impacting the hospitality sector and business operations.

As you know hospitality has been one of the sectors most adversely affected by COVID-19. Lately we have begun to experience a noticeable increase in the volume of calls and correspondence to our Helpline teams assistance in dealing with INZ to navigate the current requirements alongside the changing environment.

Our monthly Hospitality Dashboard, which we have been sending since May, sets out the current, most common pain point as immigration policy and the impact its having on existing migrant workers. Feedback from Members included the following:

“NZ Immigration are forcing us into hiring NZ workers as chefs but there isn’t enough qualified and experienced NZ chefs who have the ability to carry out the work. They are all straight out of Polytech and cannot cook very well at all, especially to the level required for our establishments.”

“It’s always extremely complex trying to get the latest information for our industry.”

“The time needed to process an application; the mistakes they [INZ] make and the time it takes to convince them that they made the mistake.”

“We’d like to continue employing our existing Work Visa holders as they have a unique work attitude and outstanding performance. However, we are very concerned that their visa cannot be extended.”

“Immigration NZ’s current position of employing New Zealanders is difficult. Many chefs have left the country and not been replaced by returning kiwis. We have a serious crisis looming this summer if they do not allow visa holders to work or transfer employees noted on their visa. Visa applications times are too long. One employee has had an application for partners resident visa for 9 months and it has not even been looked at yet. Her current visa will expire and she will be forced to leave NZ before they even look at her application.”

“Why [does] NZ Immigration make it complicated for businesses to support the visa for employees who were working already while the business is so dependent on them. Application for extending the essential work visa should be made easy.”

“Having staff who have to apply for new visas in summer and due to INZ requirements having to replace them with unproven NZ staff at the time of year when our staff need to be already fully trained and ready to go. We have to train in winter months as there is little or no time in summer so it is essential that we are able to keep the staff we have.”

A recent survey conducted by the Restaurant Association in July has shown that 78 percent of hospitality businesses trying to recruit skilled workers are finding it difficult to do so.

More than half of those surveyed that were actively recruiting for a senior role said they had found it extremely difficult to fill, having to repeatedly advertise the role until a suitable candidate was found. 26 per cent said that whilst they did manage to fill the position, the timeframes to do so were unacceptably long. Only twenty percent of respondents said that they were able to fill positions relatively easily. Forty per cent of businesses surveyed said that they had been or are recruiting for a senior position within their business whilst 64 per cent had recruited for a junior position.

Junior positions were proving easier to recruit for with just over a third of business owners reporting difficulty.

Since the impact of COVID-19, it has become abundantly clear that the current operating model of INZ does not meet the unique needs of the hospitality sector. When asked what INZ could do to improve the understanding of the immigration system and/or visa requirements, Members overwhelmingly stated the need for a dedicated hospitality industry resource, so officials first understand industry specific needs.
Other recommendations to improve the immigration system for hospitality included:

  • “Be clear and concise on what immigration policies are in any upcoming various degrees of Covid-19 scenarios within NZ and the rest of the world. Don’t leave us hanging for an answer. We want certainty in these complex circumstances while running the business to work.”
  • “Clearer statements and consistency. Feels like a lottery to support our employees.”
  • “Send us examples of practical options for common situations and our path: e.g current visa holder [who] wants to extend… what do we do and what is their current policy?”
  • “Time processing info. Any post-COVID changes?”
  • “…it seems they have employed ” box tickers” who do not think and or have any idea what sort of stress they cause.”
  • “Immigration NZ should understand how essential a particular worker is in the business rather than looking at umbrella policy. We only have 20-30% of work permit holders. However, they contribute hugely to our business.”
  • “Hospitality immigration page that is a one stop shop with everything you need regarding immigration and hospitality.”
  • “Understand the business of an individual rather than using one size fits all formula.”
  • “Clarify what are the changes and how these cases will be handled with utmost clarity.”
  • “In the past, there were different requirements coming from immigration and those supplied by work and income – work and income said we don’t need to advertise but immigration says otherwise.”

The Association does its best to stay on top of the ever-changing immigration landscape, however we are not able to say with full confidence that we receive all the required information from INZ when changes are made that affect our industry, especially in the current post-COVID operating context.

We submit there are a range of small, swift changes that you, as the new Minister, can lead to improve INZ for our sector. These include:

  • creating a INZ hospitality section on the website
  • continue to reward those employers who can demonstrate they are committed to hiring New Zealanders first ie for example by engaging in the Hospo Start training programme.
  • support the Association’s work across Government to recreate the hospitality employment narrative and help New Zealanders to see hospitality as a career pathway for life.

To say that there needs to be an enduring, flexible solution in the COVID-19 environment is an understatement. I would welcome the opportunity to meet with you one-on-one, at the earliest convenience to explain these issues in more detail and see if there is an interim, workable solution available.

Should you or your officials require additional information please do not hesitate to contact me.

Ngā mihi nui,

Marisa Bidois

Tāhūhū Rangapū (Chief Executive)

Restaurant Association of New Zealand

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