New Zealand’s biggest meat processor, Silver Fern Farms, is back in Samoa to hire more hands to complement their growing number of Samoans on their payroll.
And if it was up to the two Silver Ferns Senior Human Resources officials on island to recruit more Samoans, they would have hired more than the 19 vacancies allocated by the New Zealand Immigration.
For this year, Silver Fern Farms has a quota of 128 workers from outside New Zealand and that quota is exclusively allocated to Samoans.
“If we could take back the whole of Samoa to work for Silver Ferns we would,” said Liz Collins from Silver Ferns’ Finegand Operations.
“Samoans working at the Silver Fern Farms chain are the backbone of our departments and at full capacity we can’t maintain operations without them.”
The Finegand Processing plant has over 50 Samoans are on their payroll.
While at the company’s Temaru location, 27 Samoans are working there. “And we desperate need more Samoans,” says Christie TeAho who was here last year on the same mission to recruit more Samoans.
And TeAho is also singing praises for the local hands.
“They (Samoans) are reliable and the most productive,” added TeAho.
“They are awesome to work with, committed and work well in a team environment, sharing knowledge and skills amongst working teams.
“Samoans are also very motivated to earn as much as they can.
“And we want to fill up the openings as soon as possible.
TeAho says that another added plus for the local workers is a change in their working visa conditions. Before, each worker was assigned to work at one of the Silver Fern’s Farm plants designated by their working visa. However the change now allows the company to move their employees around from one plant to another without restrictions.
“It’s a huge plus for us in terms of meeting our packing and processing needs,” beams TeAho. Also unlike the R.S.E. seasonal employment format in the horticulture and viticulture industries, the meat processing and packing business is all year round with staff including the Samoans getting at least two weeks in down time to return home visit families and then back to work subject to being rehired.
And the financial rewards are very handsome compared to local standards.
Silver Fern Farms workers are paid a beginning minimum wage of close NZ$20 an hour which is above New Zealand’s minimum wage of NZ$15.25. But that is just the basic wages not including the bonus component.
And the Samoan workers are not complaining.
Ask the Uelese brothers from Puapua Savai’i, picked up by Silver Fern Farms last year and are likely to head back to Finegand before the end of year.
“We now have a cattle farm with a herd of over 20 not including four vehicles, two pick-up trucks, a van and a jeep,” says Vaea, the younger of the two.
“If it wasn’t for Silver Ferns, we would be ordinary taro farmers today and still struggling to make ends meet.”
Added older brother Atapana;
“Thank you Silver Ferns and a triple thank you to our government.
“The future looks bright for our family.
“The plan now is to learn as much as possible during our recruitment and hopefully if all goes well, we will open a small butchery at home.
“Government has set the pathway with their strategy plan to re-open meat exports and commercialise the local market through the introduction of mobile abattoirs.”
“Other Samoan people who have been working with Silver Fern have been able to buy land, buy cars, buy fishing boats, buy houses and set up shops and cattle farms with the money they have been making at the company.”
Enters Tamara Tolo from Nofoalii.
In his first year, the bachelor has bought a new car for his family from his earnings and he has just completed expanding their home with a brand new kitchen.
“It boils down to each individual using the opportunity to earn good money for your family,” said Tolo.
“After tax I make about NZ$1,000 to NZ$1,300 dollars a week.
“With my limited skills I couldn’t have earned that kind of pay here and I am not taking for granted this opportunity to work for Silver Ferns.”
And the government as always is receptive to any new employment incentive.
Says Agafili Shem Leo, the Chief Executive for the Ministry of Prime Minister and Cabinet, (M.P.M.C.) which oversees the Seasonal Employment Unit, (S.E.U.) the local arm at the frontline of the temporary recruitment;
“The ultimate goal endorsed by Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi is first and foremost, for more R.S.E. employment opportunities for our people because it is providing jobs for our workers who often lack income-generating work.
“And we all know that the earnings from our R.S.E. workers are supporting families, help pay for education and health, and sometimes provide capital for those wanting to start a small business.
“For Silver Ferns Farm to hire Samoans only is an inspiration to government and our S.E.U. Division.
“And government is more than receptive to accommodate our R.S.E. Employees partners to ensure that their human resources needs are met.”
Silver Fern is the biggest meat processing company in New Zealand. With 22 farms their meat processing lines include lamb, beef, venison and goat.
Just how big is it?
Silver Fern Farms Limited is a New Zealand multinational meat co-operative owned by 16,000 New Zealand sheep, cattle and deer farmers.
The company is New Zealand’s largest livestock processing and marketing company.
It has investments in manufacturing, meat processing, and transport of livestock, export logistics and meat marketing.