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Apata Adopts Living Wage For Permanent Staff

1 March 2019
Apata Adopts Living Wage For Permanent Staff

Apata will now pay, at a minimum, a ‘living wage’ to all permanent staff, resulting in a big financial boost for more than 30 employees.

Managing Director, Stuart Weston, says the decision to embrace the living wage concept is part of a wider wellbeing programme which the company initiated last year. “One of our company values is that we are a family and we look after each other. So we challenged ourselves and decided we weren’t really acting out that value as well as we could. Primary industries are historically not well paid, so we’ve decided to embrace the living wage and make sure all our permanent staff are being looked after.”

The change will lift pay rates for 32 staff to at least $20.85/hr (as of 1 April 2019). The impact will vary between individuals, but some will receive up to $5000 more per year before tax.

Apata’s other wellness initiatives include organising more social activities, providing a confidential counselling service for staff, and running regular courses on topics such as mental and physical health, managing stress, budgeting and positive communication, along with being paid to volunteer their time in the community.

“Mike King – who just won New Zealander of the Year – came and visited us last year. We had 95 percent of our full time staff turn up to that event and it was very powerful. It really resonated with all of us how important mental health is and gave us the impetus to make some of these changes,” Stuart explains. “The engagement with our staff in our wellness programme initiatives since then has been great. We’re really hitting a sweet spot in that regard and we’ve been overwhelmed by the positive feedback from our staff. We’re an industry where people are important; they’re the fabric of our industry, so we’re delighted to be able to pay the living wage, as our minimum rate from now on, to all of our permanent staff.”

Apata currently employs 150 full time staff and that workforce swells to more than 1000 people during the kiwifruit harvest each year.

Stuart says seasonal workers rates vary depending on the role they are employed in, but will start at the minimum wage rate for the time being (which will rise to $17.70/hr on 1 April 2019). However, Apata is keen to improve their pay and conditions down the track. “We can see the direction the Government is heading, and their intent to move the minimum wage up to $20/hour by 2020. Nobody’s arguing that we shouldn’t be paying people more relative to the cost of living, but the adjustment for a small company like ours to pay all of our seasonal workers a living wage is big and will take a longer period of time. We believe focussing on our permanent staff is a great first step, and we’re committed to improving wages and conditions in the kiwifruit industry to help attract the workforce we need for future growth.”

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