Farmers stand up to greedy workers?

Well, that’s what they’d like you to believe. The Southland Times leads its story:

“Short-staffed dairy farmers were being exploited by southern farm workers demanding “ridiculous” wages, industry insiders said.”

Surely not, you say, and you’d be right. Read on…

“Director of dairy farm workers recruitment company Greener Horizons Workforce Peter Macfarlane said some southern farm workers with little experience were demanding up to $50,000 a year plus free accommodation from farmers struggling to attract staff.” (Emphasis added.)

First off, what the farmers are complaining about is called capitalism, often summed up as “what the market will bare.” Apparently the farmers think that they should benefit from the operation of capitalist market economics, but not workers. Bring back serfdom?

If the farmers are going to eschew exploiting movements in supply and demand, I look forward to paying half as much for the next block of cheddar, thanks!

Secondly, we are talking about “some”, unspecified number, of workers demanding “up to” $50,000. How about basing alarmist headlines on a some hard facts, Southland Times?

Thirdly, as anybody who has completed an introductory economics course can tell you, the demand for labour is derived from the demand for the goods and services that labour is used to produce. Hence the term “derived demand”. Nothing newsworthy here, surely?

This is hilarious. As the local union secretary points out, the farmers don’t hesitate to “exploit” the workers every chance they get. Some farmers are having trouble getting workers because of “the way they have treated workers in the past,” he says.

These workers work “50–60 hours a week on average over a year.” Federated Farmers is describing the $35,000p.a. going rate as comparable to what university graduates earn. My students in recent years would laugh their heads off at that suggestion.

The CTU has responded:

“Workforce shortage issues will continue in the rural sector unless farmers and growers start to develop long term strategies for growing their own workforces,” Council of Trade Unions president Helen Kelly said today.”

Listen up cockies. You need to start investing some money in the people you employ, just like the CTU says: “This includes decent wages, training, prospects and conditions of work.” Until you do, don’t expect any sympathy if you have trouble hiring NZers to work on your farms. They’re not serfs.

Update: Homepaddock comes at this from a different point of view.



9 Responses to “Farmers stand up to greedy workers?”

  1. Chris S Says:

    Jafapete, the exact same thoughts were going through my head when I read that. Great post!

  2. Bill Browne Says:

    Frankly, it’s a market

    Bill, You get the prize for the most succinct comment this week. Sorry, second prize. AndrewE reminds me of his Gobsmacked comment.

  3. AndrewE Says:


  4. barnsleybill Says:

    At last a post I can wholeheartedly agree with. Dairy farmers are particularly bad. Yes the milker/ worker often gets accommodation and grub thrown in but in my experience (which is fairly broad in the area of farm work) they live in shitty cold sleep outs and the food is often crap.
    If I were a diary farmer looking to avoid the problem of malcontent workers complaining I would choose one of two options:
    1. pay them fairly and house them in a morally decent manner.
    2. fly in some migrant workers from south east asia on six month contracts, pay them fuck all and get a higher work rate.

    difficult choice……………………………….. NOT.

  5. AndrewE Says:

    Hmm…choice 2. What’s the morality? And I’m really interested not shit stirring.

  6. homepaddock Says:

    There are bad employers and bad employees in every indsutry but don’t judge the good majority by the poor minority.

    Diarying in our district is relatively new. So is the accommodation and it’s not cold sleepouts but warm houses, well built and insulated.

    Most of us pay our staff well and house them well because we value them and we can’t expect them to work well if they’re not treated well.

    Where else could a school leaver with no qualifications or experience get a job which pays $35,000 plus a house which is worth another $10,000. That’s entry level wages in dairying and it’s certainly not exploiting workers.

  7. barnsleybill Says:

    Morality is a fluid concept in this brave new world that is Clark’s NZ.
    Donations that break the law if you do not get caught within the six month punishable window are just a technical issue. Taking donations from people who are given gongs is okay. Not calling winnie over his NO placard is okay until the donor threatens to blab. Need I go on?
    Option 2 would be the only option for me, when our leaders are all running LAQC’s, raiding the public purse for vanity laws and stealing to aid re-election how can we have a dig at scum bag farmers?

    Everything is now okay as long as you do not get caught, and if you do all you need to do is vomit forth weasel words and screech denials. It will all go away because there always big bribes to offer the voters.

  8. barnsleybill Says:

    homepaddock, my comments relate to a dozen or so dairy farms in the far north that I have visited.

  9. Lyn Says:

    As a country girl (albeit one transplanted to the city) I have to second what Homepaddock says. In Southland there are very probably lots of empty farm houses – it takes about three traditional sheep/grain farms to make a single dairy farm and I’m assuming there are a bunch of fairly solid left-over dwellings from this process that can be used for worker accommodation. I also assume that with increasing industrialisation of farming and the loss of people from rural areas in the process described above there are fewer community-based sources of labour which will be adding to wage pressure as people have to be attracted in from elsewhere.

    Despite what townies seem to think, most farmers usually have fairly limited cashflow and a very established relationship with the bank. They may own the means of production but it’s often a neck above the waterline proposition on a day to day basis, even given the price of cheddar. Land prices in Southland are increasing and so its likely most farmers have to service more debt on the land they’re running, and the capital investment used to turn it into a dairy farm in the first place (often very recent). This doesn’t mean they shouldn’t pay the wage the market demands (and obviously any employer should treat employees with respect and provide decent conditions) – it just means that it’s understandably sometimes difficult for this to happen – and certainly more difficult than the bloody oft-quoted price of cheese would suggest.

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