If the kiwifruit industry wants to encourage more workers, then they are going about it the wrong way, says local worker Mike Pratt.
He says he is three weeks into the season and he hasn’t had a 30 hour pay.
“I have never been more ashamed in my 30 plus years in the industry.
“The young men and women are getting yelled at for having stalks in their picking bags,” says Mike.
He says the compliance for have stalks is allowing four stalks per 100 items of fruit, but he says when picking gold fruit they can’t help having 20 plus stalks.
“They do this so we fail the audit so we don’t get a picking bonus,” says Mike.
“These kids are treated like dogs, but they have to take it as they don’t qualify for a benefit nor is there any union to go to.
“The equipment is dangerous as they don’t require any kind of compliance.”
He says the government needs to do an enquiry into the industry as people are being exploited.
“They are on a contract rate so payment of public holidays can be avoided. It is no wonder why kiwis don’t want to work as pickers. Clever Kiwi’s I say.”
Mike says he is challenging Nikki Johnson to put on a picking bag for a day and find out how hard and disgusting this job is.
“I will donate my wages to charity if she does.”
SunLive got in contact with NZKGI CEO Nikki Johnson and this is what she had to say to Mike’s claims.
“First and foremost, the welfare of kiwifruit workers is of critical importance to the industry. Anyone who has concerns about their treatment or questions about employment or industry standards are encouraged to contact NZKGI or the labour inspectorate.
“While NZKGI doesn’t have all the information to comment on this specific case, the kiwifruit industry appreciates that people are key as it expands. The vast majority of employers in the kiwifruit industry are good employers, but NZKGI has been clear that employees should seek an employer that provides the environment that they are looking for.
“NZKGI also strongly recommends that potential employees talk with their potential employer about the nature of work including the potential impact of weather or seasonal fluctuations before signing an employment contract.
“NZKGI is aware that there is work to be done in making seasonal work attractive and is encouraging employers to offer more flexibility and guarantees around hours of employments.
“Additionally, NZKGI encourages employees to be informed of their employment rights. This year NZKGI has produced the Little Green and Gold book which outlines important information that employees should know about working in the kiwifruit industry.
“NZKGI welcomes feedback from employees and employers alike as this will help us improve.”
Nikki says she has picked kiwifruit before and is well aware of what the job entails.