Discussions are likely to be held in coming weeks on the future of the Pacific Labour Mobility scheme as the COVID-19 crisis continues.
The talks will focus on whether workers will be able to return to work in the next season, with Ni-Vanuatu people waiting to take up work in the Recognized Seasonal Employer (RSE) and Seasonal Workers Program (SWP) schemes once borders reopen.
The New Zealand High Commissioner to Vanuatu says he is looking forward to discussing these issues with the Commissioner of Labor in “coming weeks”.
High Commissioner Jonathan Schwass says, “I know Vanuatu is hoping to restart the SWP and the RSE program in New Zealand, possibly for the next season, but of course there is still a lot to do before that can happen.”
Mr Schwass says the future of these schemes also depends on the demand for workers in New Zealand.
He says COVID-19 has shifted the current focus of these labour mobilty programs onto getting seasonal workers stranded abroad home safely.
“Our focus has been very much on the repatriation and now we have to start looking towards the next stage,” he said.
Mr Schwass says the recent repatriation of over 1000 Ni-Vanuatu seasonal workers from New Zealand was funded by the tax payers of New Zealand.
The High Commissioner says this can be seen as a thank you to the Ni-Vanuatu workers by New Zealand for all their hard work, for over a decade now.
“Our wine growing and fruit growing industry just wouldn’t be anything like they are without the contribution of Vanuatu workers, we value that very much,” he said.
Mr Schwass said the recent repatriations were “very much-needed” because many of the workers could not have continued to work through the winter season and others had family issues.
High Commissioner Schwass said discussions and negotiations will take place to determine funding for second phase of repatriation flights that will start in August.