The Government has invited the Meat Industry Association to negotiate a sector immigration agreement.
“Labour shortages have been an ongoing issue for the meat processing sector, which affect our ability to run our plants to the desired capacity and fully process all products,” chief executive Tim Ritchie said.
“That deprives processors and farmers of revenue and rural communities of income.”
The sector is committed to training and employing New Zealanders first and works closely with the Ministry of Social Development and regional agencies to recruit locals.
“However, we still struggle to fill roles from NZ’s rural communities and the meat processing sector is approximately 2000 employees short at present. That’s about 8% of our workforce.
“To fill this immediate gap we must recruit people from overseas.”
A sector agreement is likely to include how the meat industry will attract New Zealanders, improve productivity, offer training and continue to uphold employment standards, Ritchie said.
“The meat processing sector, with 25,000 people, is NZ’s largest food manufacturer, offering modern technology, training, career progression and competitive wages.
“Meat processors are mainly based in the regions so residential accommodation is available for people coming from overseas.
“Enabling meat processors to operate at full capacity for the season will provide additional money to the communities in which they operate.”
Employing people from overseas is typically more expensive than employing New Zealanders with costs including visa support, travel and pastoral care, he said.
“The MIA has advocated for some time for a tailored scheme for the sector to help meet the employee shortfall.
“It is vital our members have a labour framework and policies which provide flexibility and agility so the sector can respond to the challenges such as unpredictable livestock supply and weather conditions and the opportunities of the dynamic markets we serve.