Samoan seasonal workers waiting to get back to New Zealand are eager to return.
Fruit growers in New Zealand, faced with a massive worker shortage, are also anxious for Pacific workers to return.
But thousands of Pacific workers who come to New Zealand each year under the Recognised Seasonal Employer have been unable to because of travel restrictions due to the pandemic.
“Talks are underway with New Zealand on the matter,” according to the Assistant Chief Executive Officer at Samoa’s Labour Export and Employment Division Lemalu Nele Leilua.
“It’s just a matter of New Zealand opening borders – opening or not opening. We have teams requesting when are they going to leave for the next season. We’re telling them just to be patient, and we’re waiting for some good news from New Zealand, and we’re ready to roll.”
Lemalu said many of the workers have been going to New Zealand for consecutive seasons.
“We have thousands of returnees that return to their original employers,” she explained, adding that there are thousands of workers waiting.
While the next move is the New Zealand government’s, Lemalu expressed gratitude for the pastoral care extended to her country’s workers who were effectively stranded in New Zealand when the pandemic emerged.
“I thank the government of New Zealand for helping our workers, repatriating them back home and also taking care of workers that got injured and workers that died from road accidents here.
“I told them that we are waiting patiently for the time that we get the green light from them and then we’re ready to go,” she said.