Claire Trevett is the New Zealand Herald’s deputy political editor.

Labour to business: train New Zealand workers or pay a tax

Labour Party leader Andrew Little says the levy is a matter of sharing the cost of training New Zealanders. Photo / File
Labour Party leader Andrew Little says the levy is a matter of sharing the cost of training New Zealanders. Photo / File

Labour leader Andrew Little has proposed a tax on employers who rely on workers from overseas instead of training local workers saying it was a way to make sure businesses were "doing their bit".

The 'training levy' would be imposed on businesses in areas of skills shortages, such as chefs, construction, IT and tour guides where migrant workers are used.

However, companies that could prove they were already actively training New Zealanders for such jobs would be exempt.

The proposal for a training levy is included in Labour's 'Future of Work' Commission report which is being released at the party's annual conference in Auckland today.

On The Nation, Little denied it was a measure aimed at deterring businesses from bringing in migrant labour, saying immigration would always be needed.

"It's about creating opportunities here for people who are here working with business and industry to make sure they are doing their bit."

He said in any industry some businesses were investing in training local workers and taking on apprentices.

"But they do it and others in the same industry don't do it.

And there are some employers who are saying 'listen, we are meeting all the cost, we are taking all the risk, we are providing that channel of future skills to the rest of the industry. How about as a matter of fairness, we share the cost, share the risk. And this skills levy proposal is a way to do that."

He said it would raise revenue to train New Zealanders.

The Future of Work report says that the availability of skilled staff was the main concern of many employers.

"Skilled immigration is being used to compensate for our failure to train our own local workforce for the jobs that are available."

The report will be released by Labour's Finance Spokesman Grant Robertson this afternoon. It contains a raft of recommendations and Labour will consider whether to make them into formal policy.

- NZ Herald

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