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Are mooted Accredited Employer changes for the best?

Are mooted Accredited Employer changes for the best?

By Building Recruitment managing director Kevin Everett

 

It is with great pleasure that I have been invited to contribute a regular column in Building Today which I hope will provide valuable information and tips to help readers with recruitment issues.

With more than 30 years’ industry experience, Building Recruitment is more than a recruitment specialist. We are focused on what’s best for our industry and our people. We always work professionally and ethically, and are here to support you and your industry.

Services we provide can be found at
www.buildingrecruitment.co.nz, so if you need permanent or temporary labour, don’t hesitate to call us.

 

They give and then take it away!

We all know the construction industry has been facing major skill shortages while the industry is booming.

The Government is pushing Kiwibuild, and is responsible for major infrastructure projects, the volume of which we have never seen before, including new motorways, tunnels, rail systems, hospitals, education and much more.

All this requires skilled labour — not just for the projects themselves, but in the supply of materials too.

In my first column, I’d like to discuss some possible future issues I’ve identified that could have a massive impact on the industry.

Last year, the Government suggested that companies should look to the Accredited Employer process, which enables employers to gain pre-approval to bring skilled employees from overseas.

This process offers two main benefits:

Fast tracking of visa applications which will take days rather than months.

It offers the employee a pathway to residency, even if they don’t have enough points.

Once a company has gained accreditation, the main criteria is that the employee is to be paid $55,000 per annum, and is offered full-time employment.

This process has been used to great effect — maybe you are already one of the many Accredited Employers out there?

However, it has come to my attention that New Zealand Immigration (NZI) is planning to increase the Accreditation Employer salary threshold from $55,000 to $73,300.

I have spoken to NZI and, although this has yet to become official, it has been confirmed by numerous sources within the immigration agency networks we work with.

They say the change has been approved internally, and it’s just a matter of time before it’s announced, with a suggested start date of December 2018 or January 2019.

Although this threshold hasn’t increased in 10 years according to NZI, it will create major issues for our industry which may not have been clearly thought through.

This increase is going to put pressure on companies looking for factory, warehouse, customer service and administration staff.

These roles are currently paying a $55,000 to $60,000 salary. Increasing this to $73,300 will lift these salaries above the current market rate for those positions.

This is not only going to impact us on building sites, but on the entire supply chain, for example frame and truss. Many manufacturers in this sector are accredited for manufacturing staff roles. After speaking to a major frame and truss manufacturer, they confirmed this is going to cause major issues for them, and could impact on their ability to meet market needs.

 

So the question is why?

Why is the Government not considering the impact this change will make on an industry that is already struggling?

Let’s take trades from overseas as an example. Our building practices are different to most other countries, so we need to give imported tradespeople time to adjust.

It is fair to say that until they get up to speed, we cannot offer people who have no previous experience and who require training the same salary as an experienced local tradesperson.

There is an alternative option, which is to offer these skilled workers a three-year working visa. The process required — outside of the Accredited Employer arrangement — takes months to get over the line.

Then after three years where does the employee go? If they don’t have the 160 points required to gain residency, they need to either re-apply for another working visa or leave the country.

There is another crazy situation here. The Government expects people to move to New Zealand on working visas with no guarantee of residency — that is, to leave their home and family with no long-term assurances. This is not an attractive option for most.

With Auckland being the most critical region for skilled labour, NZI has offered a backstop to help people gain residency.

Let’s say we have a builder who has completed three years’ employment in Auckland. They still cannot gain residency if they have gained only 140 points.

NZI will offer them an additional 30 points — enough to gain residency — if they leave Auckland and work elsewhere in New Zealand. But how does that help the Auckland market?

We are experiencing this right now, where we have clients losing staff to other regions. In all examples it has left businesses in a very difficult situation.

If someone gains residency outside of Auckland, it is my understanding that they cannot then work in Auckland for two years. This is a dangerous game NZI is playing, and one they should reconsider.

So if you are going through the accreditation process, ensure you discuss these issues with your agent or NZI themselves, as this could be a waste of valuable time and effort, as well as money.

We have still to confirm what will happen to those already employed under this scheme. Will employers be made to increase their salaries when this comes into effect? I doubt it, but nothing surprises me.

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