Samoan PM vows village blacklist

By Vaimoana Tapaleao

Home towns of seasonal workers who behave badly in New Zealand will face official punishment

William Sio.
William Sio.

Samoa's Prime Minister has warned villages that they will be blacklisted from the seasonal employment scheme if those chosen behave badly in New Zealand.

Tuilaepa Sa'ilele Malielegaoi last week announced that a blacklist was being compiled because of bad behaviour by workers who had travelled to New Zealand and Australia under the Recognised Seasonal Employer (RSE) scheme launched in 2007.

Under the scheme, thousands of people from the Pacific - including from Samoa, Tonga, Vanuatu, Tuvalu, Kiribati and Papua New Guinea - travel to New Zealand each year to help ease seasonal labour shortages.

The village of anyone who carried out "shameful behaviour," would be blacklisted - meaning no one from that village could apply to work under the scheme for up to four years, Tuilaepa told local media.

Tuilaepa said officials had blacklisted some villages, but he refused to identify them.

Issues they had dealt with included workers turning up drunk, damaging company vehicles and criminal offending that included sexual assault.

The Immigration NZ manager of the scheme, Matt Hoskin, said many RSE employers were happy with workers. It was only a fraction of those who had behaved badly over the years.

"The vast majority of RSE workers are of good character and fulfil their contracts without issues," he said.

"Only a very small minority are deported each year."

Mr Hoskin said the agency worked closely with employers, police and members of the Pasifika community when investigating reported criminal incidents.

Over the years they had introduced workshops ensuring workers were properly informed of the rules before leaving the islands and then again when they arrived here.

Samoan community leader and Mangere MP Su'a William Sio said he understood Tuilaepa's stance, as honour, and dishonour, was a huge part of Samoan culture.

Mr Sio said: "From a Samoan perspective, they value this scheme and what it can do, and has done, for families.

"When you get workers who get drunk or do something stupid, it reflects badly on their family back home, their village and their country."

The chairman of the Marlborough Viticultural Contracting Association, Ross Young, said adjusting to Kiwi culture was difficult for many Pacific workers.

"There's a lot of pressure on them. There are a lot of opportunities or temptations."

- NZ Herald

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