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Business leaders warn against new Labour immigration policy

Labour’s new immigration policy would mean Immigration New Zealand would be given the power to make employers train New Zealanders before getting the nod to employ workers from overseas.

BusinessNZ says the policy released by Labour this weekend appears to convey employers are to blame for skills shortages in New Zealand.

BusinessNZ Chief Executive Phil O’Reilly says Labour’s policy is “wrongheaded.”

“What Labour’s doing is a bit worrisome because what they’re saying is they are going to be much tougher on employers.

"They’re saying you’ve got to skill up your workforce before you come knocking on the immigration door.”

He says the government needs to work with businesses to help solve the skill shortage.

“You can’t just train them all up in a week. Sometimes, no matter how much good work government does with employers and the likes in terms of training for some of those skills, they go overseas too.

“This is always going to be an issue, with the gap between the skills a business needs at any given time and what the skills system in New Zealand can deliver them.”

Hudson NZ general manager Roman Rogers says there is a big gap in the skilled worker market.

“There is a significant gap between the skill sets that are required by New Zealand business and the skill sets that are available from the local market.”

“I think we need to be realistic about some of the gaps we’re experiencing at the moment, which are significant, and they won’t be closed in the short to medium term through education and local workforce.”

Mr O’Reilly agrees and adds this is the government and the educations sector's responsibility.

“You can’t just train someone up in the space of two months just because a new business opportunity has come along.”

He says this policy will cause companies to stop growing and lead to consumers losing confidence.

Jason Walls is an AUT journalism student

More by Jason Walls

Comments and questions

Maybe if employers trained more Kiwi's labour wouldn't have to come up with such draconian policy.

NZ employers need to invest more in their staff and businesses not take the easy option with migrants which isn't necessarily the best option for the country. NZ employers have become greedy sods with no or little investment in training staff - they feel it's someone else's problem like the Governments - a rather weird view considering their view on a Labour led Govt shouldn't be a nanny state and control everything - this is exactly what they are suggesting by not training staff


NZ employers are not dumb or stupid - they have seen the exodus of staff they have trained over the years to overseas, especially Australia. To be and stay competitive, they have to recruit trained staff from overseas who are prepared to work in NZ for lifestyle, family or whatever reason. Go to any hospital in NZ and you see overseas recruited staff keeping the place going. Likewise, go to any IT firm.

So dear The Doctor, please offer a solution rather than the usual Labour Party practice of electioneering on their failed (but union pleasing) policies in election year.

I am not a Labour party supporter - lets make that clear. I vote for the party that best reflects what's best for NZ Inc - not just what's best for me personally - unlike you and your cronies who attack me.

Please tell me the benefit of hiring Poms, Irish or Asian migrants who bring their families and hangers on to the country and rely on our health and education systems which they get free after also having never paid tax.

As opposed to training Kiwi's - young and old.

You can support the easy more expensive option
I say take the best and cheaper option - train and employ Kiwi's

Glad to see you vote for ACT.

Sounds like NZ First to me.

The good Doctor will be aware that even when training up staff, there's often a huge lead time before team members are fully capable/ready/trained.

Medical Doctors don't exit university fully trained... it takes time. And most often, employers don't have the time, or their clients won't wait, so contracts have to be filled with best available talent - and that often means hunting on the world stage...

Labour would get much better traction in some policies if they supported productivity and individual responsibility, instead of trying to undermine work place productivity and viability playing their long-game of creating excessive welfare dependents who will always vote for more free lunch. Except, nothing is ever free...

Perhaps Labour could support initiatives in Drug Testing for welfare dependents. Fail the test - no more welfare. Pass the test, you can then secure plenty of labouring jobs in construction and road building where there's a huge need - but very little people able and willing to pass a drug test, then do a reliable 40 hour week.

Same story in horticulture / fruit picking. Seasonal work, but NZ based food growers can't get enough Kiwi's off the couch and drugs, so have to import labour in from the Islands. Then some over-stay and then Labour politicians want the fugitives given foot rubs and a 1st class ticket back home - or be allowed to get a NZ passport because being an illegal alien in NZ is too tough. Diddims!

Regardless though, Labour always seem to have the answers when not in government. Never as a government. But I guess when you're facing the biggest ever loss in NZ's political history, you can say and promise anything, because deep down, they know they'll never need to keep the promises or deliver on them... not when you're always the bridesmaid...

Doctor- you live in that dim dark world that hates success, and lack a vision of reality. Not all employers are big organisations with bottomless pits of money. There are many just trying to make a buck and supply employment to others and a lot of times earn less than their employees. Enjoy your government job which is far removed from the real world.

Interesting take on who should pay to upskill the workforce and the unemployed, clearly any skills they accumulate should have no cost to them. You obviously don't employ staff that need five years training and have to work in our three year cycle politicaly driven jacknabox environment called a market. To help us can you outline how employers fund training on top of all the Govt enforced costs our International competition doesn't have. It's not a rather weird view, of nanny state. We aren't allowed to build trains and ferrys here that Govt funds because we are to expensive, Govt regulated costs make us to expensive. The Govt has stated by it's actions it's not paying for training it will build off shore. When you contract a plumber do you pay $120 an hour because the firm needs $30 an hour to train it's staff. Thought not but always someone elses job to pay isn't it.

Incredible! I can't believe you wrote that. Training staff is already a big cost for business especially SME,s . Business already has a lot of extra costs such as extra paid parental leave, employment law, ACC levies, additional insurances, draconian health and safety laws, building WOF,s etc etc. If the people aren't choosing the right educational pathway that is not the responsibility of business. Exactly how much profit do you think companies make?

Labour are seizing on anything high profile and launching a policy without really thinking it through. So many examples; the electricity reform and this one on immigration being but 2 examples. Then as soon as someone shows it won't work Labour quickly reverse their policy or revise it.

This ready fire aim type policies from the hip is not demonstrating leadership I could vote for. Couple that with what the influence of the Greens will do to labour policy and you have a disaster in the making!!

Forget Labour or National - this is not political

We all have to do what's best for NZ Inc

What is best for NZ is a bond system - so that all the professionals educated and trained in NZ at considerable cost to taxpayers, in especially critical skills shortage area, are required to serve and work in NZ for at least 5 years.

The political will unfortunately is lacking.

how do you stop them going overseas? Take away their passports?

And what happens if the organization they are working for goes out of business or retrenches?

This perspective does not help at all - just like labour and their latest policy you miss the point and make false assumptions with no basis.

The vast majority of employers are happy to make some investment in their staff - but its not their job to do so, and just like anything its a function of return on investment.

Further do you think that employers go out of their way to avoid employing NZers, so that they can pay the much higher costs of attracting international talent? (flights, accomodation, international wage rates).

You, like Labour, would do well to base your criticism/view in the real world - rather than your deluded view of it.

Surely individuals need to take responsibility not just sitting on their back side waiting for some left wing Govt declare that employers must train them. I have only joined the work force out of university in the last 5 years but have already taken it upon myself to up skill through post graduate work (supported by the business i work for) and no many others doing similar things.
Your point of view is the problem with NZ Doctor sit on your bum waiting to be spoon fed by the governemnt. Get up and do something for yourself. Surely for NZ to suceed we need the best people doing the job - which will then lead to greater growth in job opportunities for others. Or do you believe just like the labour Govt we need quotas and put people in the wrong places destroying business?

Natural capital is the stock of natural ecosystems that yields a flow of valuable ecosystem goods or services into the future. It is the extension of the economic notion of capital (manufactured means of production) to goods and services relating to the natural environment. For example, a stock of trees or fish provides a flow of new trees or fish, a flow which can be indefinitely sustainable.
- what's the difference?

could'nt agree more

I agree with your comment "The Doctor". Employees are willing to get trained while they are on bench and doing nothing. This would be a great opportunity to create skilled workforce without bringing immigrants for every single project. Sometimes skilled workforce which is available in the country is not utilized and employers just follow easy/cheap path to bring skilled immigrants. This policy will halt that too.

I call bovine excrement to your comment.

There are plenty of employers in Christchurch wanting hard working labourer's - even school leavers - but they can't get enough who are firstly drug free, then secondly will do an honest 40 hour week consistently.

...and that's why at fruit picking time, employers need to bring in plenty of seasonal workers from off shore.

Indeed, for several decades employers have enjoyed the full benefit of not training cadets and tradesmen and specialists, being able to import ready-mades. Having spent that dividend, having not invested in the future, now they bleat when the tap is to be turned off - ha

Changes to our employment law is not enough for Phil. What more does this man and his business mates want?

So The Doctor has not taken his pills again

or, he's been taking far too many...

National will regret changing the rules and investment for workplace training eg apprentices. However we did have many examples of training before under Labour that were a total waste of resources e.g. hip hop.

Investing in training is a very large and long term investment for an employer. It requires confidence that the say 3 year investment prior to recouping set up costs will be returned at better the return for recruiting people with the right skills overseas. Im not sure this recovery is well enough sustained yet for confidence to do that.

Every body knows business like cheap labour to exploit, even better if they don't have to invest in it, not too difficult to see the real issue here...


In todays globalised ever-changing world, the longevity of many businesses has shrunk, here today, gone tomorrow

Which means todays shortage becomes tomorrows unemployable un-employed, to be replaced be a new and different shortage

What the cognoscenti dont reveal is what skill are in short supply

To quote Roman Rogers - There is a big gap in the skilled worker market. There is a significant gap between the skill sets that are required by New Zealand business and the skill sets that are available from the local market

Really? What are they? That is not good enough. Give us a few clues

Have a trawl through StatisticsNZ migrant data for 2013 and you find the 3 largest categories of migrants arriving under the Skilled classification are, retail managers, restaurant workers, and IT support staff

Another poorly thought out 'policy' from the economically illiterate Left which as ever demonstrates itself to be bereft of real-world business savvy and private sector recruitment fundamentals.

The economic recovery is currently being driven by financial services - it's a a hard slog to find red meat capitalists after years of state sector anti-business education at school followed up Activist 101 classes courtesy of the Faculty Lounge Marxists that infest the Tertiary education sector.

"What is available on the local market".

Well ain't that rich. What about the other lens. What employers actually put in. As they can't expect to just take without giving - no training of the newbies.
There should be an additional tax if you use a foreign company/individual that is classified as a developing industry here.

On the flip side, there should also be a retention tax. Where they are paid a lump sum rebate at the end of two years past their training. So they don't suck up our resources in training and then head to Aussie with our skills. This should benefit the employers too. Incentivising them to take the risk of lower experience and / or additional training. 50 rebated to employer and 50% rebated to employee/supplier. Incentivizing long relationships.

Hardly. It's not incumbent on businesses to correct the mistakes of the education sector and to unwind years of culturally inculcated anti-business/ant-profit/anti-private sector indoctrination.

Yours is an ambulance at the bottom of the cliff solution. Reverse the leftist state capture of our children's minds, teach them to lead and be unashamedly aspirational and employers will not fear that those they have invested in will leave - successful Kiwis in a successful New Zealand will want to stay.

totally agree

Please remember that young people in this country are already paying through the nose for tertiary education.

I am horrified at the levels of debt that they are carrying and the fact that they will be paying much higher tax rates than most of the ' family trust' right wingers who shout so loudly in this column.

Also remember that the public sector and services are stretched in this country.

If the 'useful' idiots that have taken over the Universities taught a little more Chicago or Austrian School and stopped facilitating the transmission of Frankfurt School drek...then they would have access to enhanced employment opportunities both here and abroad with a commensurate ability to pay down their debt within a reasonable time.

Conversely we can train the population for careers as Diversity Outreach Coordinators, Climate Change Coordinators and Happiness Managers - and lump them with the same level of debt that a decent degree in economics would of cost them. I blame the Liberal Left pseudo-intellectual charlatans that sell them a product with little to no return on their investment.

The problem lies deeper, and not that easily fixed. I don't want to offend anyone, but most NZ people don't have motivation, don't have ambition to achieve something in their lives. They live their lives without fearing wars or famine. They live lives comfortably, yes relatively comfortably , comparing to other countries. I want to stress that this is not true about all people, but a majority. Those who get too comfortable lose any kind of motivation to grow. Therefore they don't want to be trained. They simply don't care, they don't care if they pass the drug test, or if they work today and quit tomorrow. People are not taught discipline and respect in schools. The whole society needs to change, then we will see more people growing and staying in NZ. Overseas people are often (NOT ALWAYS) better workers because they are motivated to stay in NZ for better life. Motivation is what drives people.