The Recognised Seasonal Employer (RSE) Scheme was introduced in 2007 as a way for employers in the horticulture and viticulture sectors to recruit seasonal workers from eligible Pacific Island countries. The scheme has been successful in helping New Zealand employers fill labor shortages and has also benefited Pacific Island countries through increased remittances and opportunities for their workers to learn new skills. However, with the current policy up for review, it's time to consider how to make the RSE scheme even better for Pacific workers.
The Ministry of Business, Innovation, and Employment (MBIE) has been carrying out targeted consultations with stakeholders over the past month, inviting feedback on the policy review. The consultation process has included in-person sessions, webinars, and written submissions, and the deadline for written submissions is 24 April 2023.
The policy review has a two-fold objective: to create sustainable administrative system settings that the government can comfortably work with in the long term and to improve the policies and guidelines that protect RSE workers and enable them to have a positive experience on the scheme. The guiding principles for the review are ensuring equitable sharing of benefits across employers, workers, and communities, incorporating the views of Pacific Island countries and workers and contributing to short, medium, and long-term development outcomes sought in the Pacific region.
The scope of the RSE policy review is broad, covering areas such as cap-setting, allocation methodology, labor market tests, compliance, flexibility, accommodation, health, pastoral care, benefits and deductions, worker rights, and addressing exploitation risks. The review also takes a strategic view across all workstreams to ensure policy proposals will meet the development goals sought in the Pacific, with a particular focus on the impacts of the scheme on Pacific labor markets.
While the RSE scheme has benefited both New Zealand employers and Pacific workers, it's important to ensure fairness and protection for the latter. The policy review provides an opportunity to address any issues that may have arisen and improve the RSE scheme's policies and guidelines to benefit Pacific workers. For example, there may be room for improvement in areas such as health and safety, accommodation, and addressing exploitation risks.
The consultation period is expected to end soon, and MBIE will use the feedback received to inform the policy review. After the review, the government will consider the findings and make decisions about any changes to the RSE scheme. It's essential to ensure that any changes made are fair, equitable, and beneficial to all parties involved.
The RSE scheme has been an essential part of New Zealand's relations with Pacific Island countries since 2007, providing a valuable opportunity for Pacific workers to earn money, learn new skills, and increase remittances. The policy review provides an opportunity to improve the scheme's policies and guidelines, ensuring it remains a sustainable and equitable opportunity for all parties involved. By working together and prioritizing fairness for Pacific workers, we can continue to build a mutually beneficial relationship between New Zealand and Pacific Island countries.