In order that business prospers and the New Zealand economy recovers the Government needs to rethink the way they value a job.
The thinking needs to be beyond an hourly rate so New Zealand can bring in the skilled and essential workers needed urgently to support primary exports and the hospitality, accommodation and tourism sectors so trade prospers and the economy recovers.
The assumption that the value of a job can be measured by an hourly rate is wrong.
The frustration of not getting immediate action in opening the border to a growing and diverse list of key workers from fruit pickers to machine operators, cooks to housekeepers and halal slaughtermen risks becoming a damaging trade, employment and economic recovery issue.
At the moment there are more jobs than people. No employer would be seeking to bring in offshore workers or be pushing for extensions to existing working holiday and seasonal work visas, and the list of essential trades, if it were not a critical issue. Having the right people to do the work is the difference of being open for business or shutting up shop for many.
There is a problem and it needs to be fixed. It is one of short-sightedness in understanding that jobs defined by officials as low skilled, low paid and low priority are actually vital links in keeping a longer and deeper interconnected supply and delivery chain ticking all the way into the market to ensure we can sell the products and services we supply and in return contribute to our national, regional and local economies.
Take the frustration red meat exporters are experiencing due to a severe shortage of qualified halal slaughtermen who simply are not available in the numbers needed on the ground in New Zealand.
If meat is not slaughtered and certified according to strict halal requirements then it cannot be processed and the products exported as promised. The customer is let down. Brand New Zealand's reputation as a reliable supplier of premium quality beef and lamb products consistently able to meet increasing international demand and specifications is tarnished.
And if the exporter loses his customer then the viability of the meat plant is threatened, the producers have to find a new processor, jobs are lost, the community loses a vital economic contributor and a competitor takes up the slack.
The value of the person at the start of the chain must surely be measured by the consequence of not having them there? Unfortunately this is not what our officials in MBIE and Immigration view as value.
Or take the hotel in one of our tourist hubs, desperate to seize the opportunity from the opening of the transtasman bubble and New Zealanders' discovery of their own country.
How does a hotel provide a quality of service if there are no cooks or wait staff or housekeepers or dishwashers to provide the standard of service and care that their guests as paying customers rightfully expect?
Are these major investments and employers who support the lifeblood of regional New Zealand not of value when we look beyond the hourly rate of a single role?
Again the value we should acknowledge is the consequence of not having those skills there and the impact it has on the business.
Change needs to come – and fast. The hourly rate measure fails businesses which need the right people to fill the jobs they have now. Look at the supply and delivery chain. Look at it again through my eyes and you will see a chain of value because it is complete.
- Michael Barnett is chief executive of the Auckland Business Chamber.
OUT OF WORKERS: A Business Herald Series
• The tech sector's new pain point