Tuesday, March 06, 2007

"Well paid"

Fruit growers have started their usual seasonal whine about the lack of fruit pickers. They just can't understand why people turn their nose up at the work - after all, according to the Fruit Growers Association it's well paid:

Picking was hard work, but it paid well, Ms Vesty said.

The minimum bin rate in Hawke's Bay was abound $30 a bin. An average picker filled about three to four bins a day.

Doing the maths, this works out to $105 a day, or $525 for a five-day week - less than the average weekly income. On an hourly basis, assuming an eight-hour day (not a given with fruit picking) it works out to the princely sum of $13.13/hour - not much above minimum wage ($10.25/hour now; $11.25/hour from April 1st, and probably $12/hour by 2008).

(If the comparisom is done with three bins, rather than 3.5, it works out to a nice tidy $11.25/hour - so minimum wage is now "well paid"...)

People can judge for themselves whether this is "well paid" - and they clearly are. If the Fruit Growers Association wants a decent supply of workers, then maybe they should ensure that their pay rates match their rhetoric, rather than trying to bullshit people as they are at present.


There is a similar situation with chefs. Apparently being a chef is a "demand industry" and yet the employers pay hardly anything for a low level chef - and not all that much for a head chef.
Besides it is stupid to talk about 'average pickers' like any job you would get better as time goes on - that means in your first period you would make significantly less than the average - maybe less than you can afford. Unles they want to pay a training suppliment then why would anyone quit a better paid job to take a job that may well pay them less than they need to cover their rent/living expenses over hte next few weeks?

Posted by Anonymous : 3/06/2007 07:12:00 PM

the issue with chefs is that they tend to put things like a three hour break in the middle of the day and the work itself is in a place you need transport into town and is probably nowhere near your home, this means that it effectively costs you extra money to do somthing with oneself during that time AND you effectively commit those hours to the job not leasure (you cant want a massive lunch break EVERY day to do shopping).


Posted by Anonymous : 3/06/2007 07:16:00 PM

It's completely unskilled work, so it's never going to command premium pay.

Posted by Anonymous : 3/07/2007 01:21:00 AM

I dont mind that they dont pay much I just think they shouldnt be begging for favours from the government or anyone else when all they need to do is pay bit more.

Also to say
"But, to keep wages and things up we've got to have exporters earning incomes and if their income's sitting on the tree unharvested it stops a lot of cash flow through a region and through a country."
Just makes peopel like I/S and myself think

"if there is so much value of product left on the trees you could surely afford to pay someone a few more dollars so they will be wiling to pick it."

it really only leaves two possibilities
1) they are stupid (and are leaving a huge value of fruit on trees)
2) they actually have enough labour and it isn't really an issue.

Posted by Anonymous : 3/07/2007 06:28:00 AM

It looks like elementary supply-and-demand stuff - if people won't sell their labour to you, your pay and/or conditions aren't attractive enough. Kids learn this stuff in school. How do these people stay in business if they don't know that?

Posted by Psycho Milt : 3/07/2007 07:33:00 AM

Anon: I agree - but then its a bit rich to claim that its "well paid", and to complain about a shortage of labour when growers clearly aren't doing a lot to attract workers to their minimum-wage job.

As Psycho Milt says, this is elementary supply-and-demand stuff. If they can't find people, there's a simple solution: pay more. If they can't - if this would drive their business under, or reduce profits to an unacceptable level, then clearly its not economic anyway.

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 3/07/2007 07:55:00 AM

Actually I think the remuneration is even worse than you're saying.
Firstly, the work is seasonal, so by definition anyone doing it is unable to be working or looking for a permanent job. With any other contract-type work, employers pay a premium for the convenience of non full-time staff.
Secondly, it is frequently filled by people who are not living locally and who therefore have additional accomodation and travel costs.
Ms Vesty is living in lala land.

Posted by Anonymous : 3/07/2007 08:10:00 AM


I think what your talking about is those nasty split shifts that restaurants like you to work i.e. 6 hours in the morning a big lunch break then 6 hours in the afternoon. Also restaurant owners rarely ever follow employment laws with sick leave and holiday pay non-existent.

If there really is a shortage in this area then they have only themselves to blame.

Posted by Anonymous : 3/07/2007 09:19:00 AM

Interesting that bin rates (if the $30 sum quoted is correct) haven't shifted in 15 years. I remember that being the going rate back in the early 1990's.

Looks like the growers are lagging well behind when it comes to adjusting payrates to inflation

Posted by Randominanity : 3/07/2007 09:35:00 AM

It's one of the worst jobs ever and now that most of it's done on contract it's become less personal, the grower doesn't have to supply smoko sheds, water, wet weather gear, toilets and coffee etc. In fact you'd be lucky to even meet the owner.
A large crop doesn't mean easier pickings, the apples are probably smaller so filling a bin takes longer, nevermind having to throw out blemished etc fruit or risk having your pay docked. Rain often means no work, so no pay. Contract work means no holiday pay and no stats. Sometimes other contract pickers will run ahead and steal big easy-to-reach apples from your row, so you're left with filling your bin from a ladder. It's a good way to lose weight and wreck your back at the same time.


Posted by Anonymous : 3/07/2007 08:42:00 PM

I don't have a lot of sympathy for the perenial complaints of employers, but you raise an important question: Why don't they pay more if it is such obvious economics? Very often it's because they too are being squeezed, unless they are lucky enough to export all their produce. Our supermarket duopoly can and does dictate prices and any grower who refuses to kow-tow will not sell their crops - this happens often enough for growers to live in fear. Most growers do not live by exports alone, and perhaps many would pay pickers more if they were paid more by the supermarkets. Ask yourself why you pay $2.50 for an avocado in the supermarket when the grower will happily sell it to you for 50c at his gate. Then ask yourself who the real exploiter is.

Posted by Anonymous : 3/07/2007 10:41:00 PM

Actually, $30/bin is less than I was getting in 1990 last time I did any real picking. At that time I could make a decent wage picking apples, provided I did it in Nelson/Motueka where the fruit was better and the employers were not... "fully exercising their legal powers". In Chch Student Job Search always had picking jobs available and they were always crappy.

The reason is that seasonal labourers talk to each other, so growers where you can earn decent money have no trouble finding staff. The ones who treat their workers badly or who set their contract rates such that you can't make a living, can't get staff.

So they whine to the media. I'm surprised to see actual wage numbers given, and I strongly suspect that figure is exaggerated - it'll be the rate an experienced picker can get. So the newbies will be getting about half that, just because there's a learning curve. So when you do your numbers, add in "experienced pickers are 50%-100% faster than people who are in their first season".

Posted by Moz : 3/08/2007 01:46:00 PM