Opposition warns: Don’t disrupt labour mobilty programs

The leader of the Vanuatu Opposition has called on the Government to protect the labour mobility and seasonal worker programs underway with Australia and New Zealand, and to widen national employment initiatives.

Opposition leader, Ralph Regenvanu said a Government decision announced in October, to alter recruitment arrangements for Ni-Vanuatu wanting to work overseas, could threaten one of Vanuatu’s main sources of employment.

In October, the Vanuatu Government announced it would do away with the licensed recruitment agents working on labour mobility schemes and have the Government run these processes to ensure fairness in the recruitment of workers.

Mr Regenvanu made his comments in response to the Vanuatu President’s address during the opening of Parliament’s second ordinary session.

“Last year, Vanuatu had more of its workers participating in Pacific seasonal labour programs than any other country. We sent around 11,000 workers to work overseas through this system,” he said.

“Now is not the time to play around with the system that has been working well.”

Mr Regenvanu said not only should the Government protect the labour mobility schemes but “it also should find other new ways to create more employment in the country”.

He asked all members of Parliament to focus on creating more work opportunities to improve the economy and so Ni-Vanuatu were able to support and take care of their families, particularly during crisis periods and disasters.

One licenced employment recruitment agent in Vanuatu told VBTC she believes the Government’s plan to take over as the recruiting agents for labour mobility employment needed “more thought”.

Leisei Qwen Fred, a recruitment agent since 2011, says the Government needs to make sure overseas employment companies are fully aware of the changes.

She says all parties need to be aware of the Government’s decision and to be onboard with it.

“I hope the decision by the Council of Ministers will not disturb the relationship we’ve had with companies and growers in Australia and New Zealand,” she said.

As a long term recruiting agent, she said she would not wish to see overseas companies pulling-out from recruiting workers from Vanuatu.

A seasonal worker in Australia, Dick Taiwia, says he does not agree with the Government’s decision to take over the role of private recruitment agencies.

He says farmers in Australia appear to have confidence and trust in the recruiting agents to select qualified workers who can do a job well.

Mr Taiwia said he believes it could become more difficult for Ni-Vanuatu workers to work overseas if the Government takes over the recruiting agent role.

However, Prime Minister Bob Loughman says his Government will work in the interests of the people and will act responsibly in any making changes to the recruiting arrangements on the labour mobility schemes.

The Government says it plans to place its recruiting agents into local area councils so that area administrators can be responsible for recruiting workers in their areas.

The Commissioner of Labour, Murielle Metsan Meltenoven, says for now workers will still be recruited through recruiting agents until a proposed bill is passed in Parliament to amend the Employment Act.

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