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Kiwi employer impressed with Samoan workers

The owner of Perry's Berrys Limited, Francie Perry, has been impressed with the tremendous contribution of Samoans towards the business and is hoping to recruit more Samoans.

Perry Berrys is one of the biggest strawberries growers in New Zealand. Since its establishment in Auckland 38 years ago, the company has employed Samoans who lived in New Zealand and just two years ago started recruiting under the Recognised Seasonal Employer (RSE) scheme. 

She is in Samoa with her partner, Larry Coombes, for a holiday and to meet with officials from the immigration department to discuss the recruitment of locals. 

“All the key people in the picking, packing and processing who work for us are Samoan people. For us it's mostly Samoans who work in the business,” Francie told the Samoa Observer.  

“These Samoan people contribute a lot to our business too and we are very happy with the Samoan workers. 

“What we are really aiming for is a 100 RSE when we can. We are just slowly building up. But we have already employed a lot of Samoan people in Auckland, who are resident.” 

Francie said 10 Samoan men will be arriving into New Zealand on April 15, 2019, and some later on in the year. 

“We are bidding for more than 100 by harvest time, which is October to early January. Plus we've already got some there.

“Our main supervisor of the garden, his mother worked for me and his brothers and sisters and children and cousins worked for me. 

“They have contributed a lot to the business and it has been fantastic. The only problem I have is if I am growling at somebody, then somebody comes by later and whispers do you know that's his cousin.” 

Francie said the Samoans are the best workers they have and they earn the most money because of their high productivity. 

“They get paid for what they do, so they earn high wages and of course that allows them to buy cars and other items, and then they bring it back to Samoa, and every time they go back there's almost a little party for us thanking us, and we thank them for their contribution,” Larry said. 

The couple said a worker earns about NZ$850 (T$1,497.55) before tax, which is about 15 percent for RSE workers. 

“All the workers make the minimum hourly rate of NZ$17.20 (T$30.30) plus holiday pay of 8 percent, but those who are really good make significantly more than that about NZ$35 (T$61.65) hourly. 

“An average sort of work, they would make somewhere between NZ$19 (T$33.46) - $24 (T$42.26) an hour plus holiday pay. This is for picking and packing. Most of them make fantastic money, and they get paid weekly. That's the money they make before taxes. The RSE tax is about 15 percent.” 

“When they are picking the berries and all their trays are weighed. So they will always get the minimum rate which is $17.20 but if they do better than that, then they go on bonus, so the more they pick the more they earn.

“But we convert it back to hourly so we can see that they are getting a fair rate.  So they could be getting NZ$30 (T$52.82) an hour. All our payroll is audited by the Department of Labour, so there's no question about hour rates.”

They agreed the workers contribute significantly to Samoa through remittances. 

“Because we think your guys are so good, we've persuaded some other employers to employ them and then we take them back on a transfer. We've got our numbers too, and we've got some men at our plant nursery as well.”


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