The need for a farm workers union

The Spark April 2010
Byron Clark

Recently released figures from Federated Farmers have shown that although the number of farms with written contracts between the farmer and farm employees grew by 9% since last year, fewer than a quarter of farms have a contract with their employees and only 40% keep records of the hours their employees’ work.

Federated Farmers president Don Nicolson says the federation will be holding ‘seminars’ throughout the country to educate its members on employment-related matters. But the Council of Trade Unions (CTU) is saying that farm workers need to have independent representation to safeguard their rights.
In addition to farm workers often being in isolated locations where it’s difficult to get advice, the rural workforce in New Zealand has a high proportion of migrant workers working under the Recognised Seasonal Employer (RSE) scheme. Last year changes were made to the scheme which the union movement said would “result in more blatant exploitation” of workers. Lina Ericsson, a Swedish political scientist who conducted field work among RSE workers in the rural areas near Tauranga found many stories of mistreatment, unpaid wages and other violations of employment rights.

Research conducted by Massey University has shown that agricultural workers have the highest incidence of leukemia of all New Zealand occupation groups. The cause is expected to be exposure to pesticides. With all these factors, the idea of a farm workers union is one whose time has certainly come, what waits to be seen is if the CTU will go beyond the discussion and put resources into making it a reality.

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Comments

  1. margaret agate says:

    Hi I am sick to death of the abuse reg hours worked in rural employment.
    Employers seem to take the need to get a job done as the right to work employee’s long unpaid hours as well as not give proper days off, instead of paying for hours worked. Why are farming employers allowed to get away with this, its nothing less than slavery . Why isn’t it law that if you work more than a 40 hour week ,time sheets must be filled in? and time off or payment for hours worked.

  2. One farmer has really made my life crap after 7 year’s by giving incorrect refernce’s over the phone when used. Was telling me to my face that they were giving me a great refence. I realy feel like writing a book on these farmer’s. My work mate does 70 hour’s a week for $450 in the hand. How fucked up is that. The farmer relize’s he’s not going to complain as the employee need’s the referance for the nxt job.
    A blog site does need to start maybe advertised by a union and slowly the farm worker’s site will build there for a union will form it self.
    Any Union want to give it a try??

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