The results of a survey released by the Auckland University claims immigrant kiwifruit workers in the Bay of Plenty are working illegally.
New Zealand Kiwifruit Growers Incorporated President Neil Trebilco says he is surprised by this report.
An AUT survey has found 95 per cent of those illegally working on kiwifruit orchards are studying.
“If the report is true it reports a very small per cent of the people employed in the industry,” says Neil.
“It might be an issue. But it is probably no more of a problem than in any other industry.
“Growers are required to comply with the employment laws just like any other employer, however they would have to ask their contractors about their employment practices if they suspect a person is working illegally.”
The report claims 93 per cent of international students working illegally in Bay of Plenty orchards were supposedly studying at an educational facility.
Neil says if growers employ people outside the law they run the risk of being prosecuted and fined. Growers are required to be registered with NZKGI in order to sell produce globally. As part of that agreement they are required to meet national laws including employment practices.
If growers are aware they are employing illegal labour they can jeopardise their ability to market internationally.
“The problem for growers is that they have no ability to look at contractor’s employment practices,” says Neil.
“The industry does not condone illegal labour. As an employer I have to ensure that my employees have the right visas and the right to work here.
“That’s a requirement for all growers and employers. The issue seems to be with certain contractors. The industry does not condone illegal labour. We don’t want it and don’t need it.”
Neil says many orchardists hire their workers through employment contractors so would be unaware of any illegal employment activity.