The New Zealand Shearing Contractors’ Association (NZSCA) has announced that pay rates for key roles in the shearing industry will rise between 7% to 23% as the industry moves to retain its workers.
NZSCA executive officer Phil Holden says the decision was not taken lightly by members who are competing in a dire labour shortage.
“Retaining skilled staff is absolutely vital for the wool harvesting industry in an employment market where labour is in short supply and everyone is competing.
“The need to ensure we remain competitive has been what’s driven us to make this move,” Holden says.
The focus for association members is retaining the staff they have.
“In the light of recent cost of living increases we need to ensure our members’ staff don’t get left behind everyone else and our industry remains a competitive and attractive career option.”
Shearing of crossbred sheep, all crutching, and shearing gang cooks will get a 6.91% pay increase.
Merino, half breeds and quarter breeds shearing will receive a 12.38% rise while advanced shedhands and pressers will get a 12.17% pay rise, seniors 22.81% and junior workers 20%.
Holden says these are base rates and will vary from region to region.
“The association sets a minimum standard rate but a lot of members already pay over the base rate.”
He encourages farmers to check with their shearing contractor to learn exactly what it means for them as there is “no one size fits all”.
“Retaining skilled staff is absolutely vital for the wool harvesting industry in an employment market where labour is in short supply and everyone is competing.”Phil Holden
The NZSCA acknowledges that lifting pay rates alone will not address the skill shortage with work ongoing to address the long-term recruitment and training needs of the sector.
“We are mindful too that with the boarders opening up we expect to see people go as overseas opportunities become attractive.”
The association is hopeful the Government’s reform of the vocational education system can be completed as soon as possible so that the training needs of its sector can be clarified and confirmed.
“It takes two years to become a trained shearer, so we can’t just fill in the current labour shortages overnight.
“We need the shearers we’ve got,to stay.”
Holden says labour shortages threaten recent gains made by the wool harvesting industry.
“We don’t want to hinder the growth of our high-end Merino product or the progress that’s currently being made to revitalise the strong wool sector.
“Any successful industry needs well-trained shed staff.
“We can ill afford to lose the staff we have overseas because they’re lured by better prospects.
“The reality is, just like other industries in the primary sector, we’ll have to pay more to retain the people we have.”
Farmers also need to ensure the working conditions and environment they offer remain a drawcard for shearing industry workers, Holden says.