The push for big increases in wages and entitlements in the shearing industry will hopefully benefit recruitment and staff retention, an industry body says.
The New Zealand Shearers Contractors Association, at its recent annual general meeting, tackled what it described as significant challenges in recruiting and retaining skilled labour in the wool harvesting industry.
Big increases in pay and entitlements for the current year, up to 25 percent in some cases, were ratified at the meeting, amid hopes they will stop the drift of shearers to Australia.
The higher rates are a result of several months of consultation with members and non-members, and form part of a new strategic plan outlining the goals of the association over the next three years.
The plan focuses on improving the profile of the association, lifting recruitment and retention rates, improving training opportunities and leading new standards in health and safety in the industry.
Incoming president Mark Barrowcliffe is pleased with the recommendation which would see workers’ pay and entitlements improve by up to 25%.
“We are proud to be leading initiatives to address the most serious challenges in our industry and I’m particularly pleased for the staff of our members.
“This is the first step in responding to the recruitment and retention challenges, but we’re also developing medium and long-term plans to ensure this is sustainable.”
Mr Barrowcliffe also acknowledged that addressing the pay gap with Australia was critical in keeping more New Zealanders in the industry.
“This decision provides workers the opportunity to see real career opportunities and create meaningful opportunities for themselves and their families.
“They do not need to go to Australia now to achieve this,” he says.
It is believed about 50 percent of the sheep in Australia are shorn by New Zealand shearers.
The association’s executive committee is now working hard to communicate the details of the recommended terms to shearing contractors, farmers and the staff of both groups.
Jamie McConachie, the recently retired association president, was central to much of the consultation process. He says it is important all parties understand the changes.
“We know there will be questions from farmers, but without implementing these changes there is a real risk that, in the near future, we could not service farmer’s needs.”
Mr McConachie was looking forward to being part of ongoing discussions to communicate the recommendations, and also sees this as a chance to continue to improve the employment framework for the industry.
“We want to be acknowledged as an industry where fair employment conditions are the norm,” Mr McConachie says in reference to previous historical issues where entitlements haven’t always been fairly treated.