Pubdate: Sat, 08 Mar 2008
Source: New Zealand Herald (New Zealand)
Copyright: 2008 New Zealand Herald
Author: Simon Collins
Bookmark: (Drug Testing)


The meat industry wants to bring in seasonal workers  from the 
Pacific Islands to meet a labour shortfall  caused partly by up to 80 
per cent of local applicants  failing drug tests.

The industry has begun tripartite meetings with the  Government and 
unions about a scheme similar to the  new, recognised seasonal 
employer scheme for  horticulture, which allows horticulturists to 
bring in  up to 5000 workers from the Pacific for up to seven  months a year.

Meat Industry Association adviser Robyn Deacon said the  labour 
shortfall in the meat industry was smaller _  about 1000 in a 
workforce of 24,000.

But the industry faced the same challenges of finding  seasonal 
labour in near-full-employment rural areas.  The meatworks' recent 
shift to drug testing all job  applicants had heightened the problem.

Hamilton-based Affco, which runs 10 meatworks from  Moerewa in the 
north to Awarua near Invercargill,  started testing three years ago 
and said the number of  job applicants who failed the test varied 
from area to  area.

"At times it can be as high as 80 per cent," said human  resources 
manager Graeme Cox.

Christchurch-based Anzco Foods said the numbers failing  its drug 
test were "on the increase". "It can get as  high as 80 per cent ... 
" said human resources manager  Heather Burton.

The country's biggest meat company with 25 works,  Dunedin-based 
PPCS, reported a lower rejection rate of  24 per cent of job 
applicants and said some were  rejected for reasons other than the drug test.

The other big chain, Invercargill-based Alliance Group  with seven 
plants in the South Island and one at  Dannevirke, uses a saliva test 
which picks up drugs  used only in the previous two days, in contrast 
to the  other three companies, which use urine tests. Alliance  human 
resources manager Kerry Stevens said: "It hasn't  been an issue for 
our company or a reason for the  labour shortage."

NZ Meatworkers Union president Mike Nahu said the union  opposed 
bringing in migrant labour and believed the  main reason for the peak 
labour shortage was not drugs  but the trend to open and shut killing 
chains when  stock numbers rose and fell.

"I just had a call 10 minutes ago that one of the sheds  is laying 
its night shift off.

Years back, even if you were on the bottom chain, you  still operated 
for an eight-month season. Now you might  get one month."
- ---
MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom