We’ve been driving to the north from Auckland but didn’t have any plan what we want to see or do exactly. The northernmost point we have reached was the small town Wellsford, and from that point, we decided not to continue further, but we have turned back and headed to the east to Matakana. Maybe we will find some job there, we thought.
The Motel Full Of Friendly Malaysians And The Lemon Trees
On the way in Matakana we found some backpacker motel, so we drove in to ask how much would cost shower and camping place for one night. Together it was about 25 bucks which wasn’t very cheap considering the fact that we sleep in our van.
It was curious to us, how inventive Kiwis are when maintaining their business. That backpacker “motel” was actually a home where the owner lives with his family, and next to the house, he set up few container bunks or kind of cheap sleepouts and a few old caravan trailers to the circle with a tiny kitchen in the middle and a compact bathroom. I felt like in the real Lego play. There was a nice backyard with a lovely huge orange and lemon trees – we couldn’t believe that you can go outside and pick your own orange and lemon and eat it straight away. So exotic!
There were about 30 friendly Malaysians and 2 nice guys from Sri Lanka. Malaysians were very active, we have never seen them rest, except night. In the morning they went to work, in the early afternoon they came back and started to cook a meal, all together.
Then they were cleaning, washing, then started to cook again a dinner… They cooked a lot and talked a lot, mainly about food. Our new friends always offered to us some food and also gave us a lot of vegetables which brought from work. They haven’t been family or close friends but anyway, all of them looked that are close to each other, ready to help and care if needed. I assume it comes from their mentality, and preparing, cooking and talking about the food is one of the main signs of their culture.
It was one of the first intercultural experience for us and it was amazing.
Even The Paradise Has Its Own Issues Sometimes
Unfortunately, even in the paradise is the presence of the “evil”. These lovely Malaysians were every day working very hard and conscientiously – some of them in the packhouse – packing vegetable, some of them were picking strawberries – those who have tried it (including us), know how hard work it is, especially picking strawberries.
When we asked them if they already got paid for that hard work and how much, we didn’t get the answer. They simply didn’t know. Reason? Contractor.
All these lovely, trusting, hard-working Malaysian people were working for free for about 2 months already (wage is usually paid every week in NZ), with only the promise from their contractor who told them they will get paid at the end.
Who Really Is a Contractor? A Worthless Person…To Us
The contractor is someone who is arranging work for locals and travelers – a person in the middle – mediating the process between employer and employee. In our opinion a worthless person.
What’s the problem with contractors?
Well, the problem of many contractors in New Zealand is that they are simply usurers, who are taking the commission for mediating work, which you can find for yourself anyway. If you are a kiwi and work through the contractor, you probably don’t have any problem if you don’t mind that someone is taking a percentage of your money as a “commission fee”. They usually don’t dare to do this tricky games on locals. However, if you are from overseas, you might have a problem, especially if your English level is not good enough to defend yourself and don’t know your rights and the law.
Another tricky thing they used to do is to have a “secret agreement” with owners of some backpacker motels or hostels (often with very poor standards) and trying to push their future employees this style: “Either you accommodate here, or you won’t get any work,” which means the condition of getting a job is to obey what they say to you, because obviously he’s (or she) got a profit from you.
However, you might not even recognize it, because they approach you always with a friendly and trustworthy pose, trying to give you a sense that they want to help you.
We personally have experience with this kind of blackmailing too. Seriously, she wanted to earn twice on us, not just for the mediation of work but also for accommodation. What kind of person is it, who is making living for using naive and often desperate tourists? No way!
In fact, according to what we heard, many of the contractors might be criminals with dipping in more just like “robbing” people, but also drug dealing and other things.
Since then, we have never work for a contractor and always found work on our own very easily.
All you need is to do is sit in the car and drive personally around some orchards, farms, vineyards – whatever you want to do but consider seasonal opportunities (you can’t find work on the apple orchard during winter, but in summer you can do apple thinning and in autumn apple picking).
Two Golden Rules – Prepare And Share
According to the law, everyone who works in New Zealand has the right to get paid at least minimum wage which is nowadays 15,75 per hour. If your work is based on a piece rate which means you are paid by your performance or quantity (for example kilograms of picked apples) you should still get at least minimum wage first week. The law set that you have to be paid regularly and usually once a week or every fortnight and it should be stated in your agreement. It is also a responsibility of your employer or contractor to pay a tax and other deductions from your wage to government for you. You should get appropriate payroll for each wage which has been paid to you or you have the right to see your wage and hours records.
Important and useful information for this matters can be found directly on the ministry of employment on the link below:
Your basic rights as an employee in New Zealand
If you work through the contractor and was said to you, that you will get money at the end of your work contract, if your employment conditions are unclear and you don’t know how much you will get paid and when, if you get less than a minimum wage, take an action!
Make compliant, report it, (you can report it on the link provided) don’t be scared only because you are a tourist and you don’t speak English fluently. And most important thing is – don’t be satisfied if you get paid less than minimum wage only because you would never get paid such a “high” amount in your country of origin anyway!
During our continuous travel across NZ we have met a lot of travelers who worked for contractors and have been deceived, never got paid, or got paid less.
Some of them were desperate to do something but didn’t know how. Or have been scared and some of them just accept it and worked for less which is absolutely WRONG.
Stand up for your rights and watch out for usurers, write their names in forums, call to the local press etc. We should not let them to lower the standards of decent payment for everyone.
Please if you are in this situation and struggle, let us know, we are here for your support!
The best way to avoid all of this is to always look for the job on your own, go to employers directly as we did. Although many employers prefer to hire workers through the contractor because it’s much more comfortable for them, there are still many employers who employ workers directly.
If you are not successful with finding a job on your own, you can still turn on the proven and reliable recruitment agencies who can find you a work quite easily like Adecco and many others.
The Beginning Of Our Big Apple Adventure
So we suddenly found ourselves in the sunny Hawke’s Bay – the place which is famous internationally for seasonal workers because there’s plenty of orchards – mainly apples, and thus many work opportunities for travelers. We have been driving and stopping in many orchards, asking for work. Usually, it’s been said to us they don’t hire now, season have not started yet. But on some orchards, we’ve been quite surprised when some people were straight and told us: “Sorry guys, New Zealanders has priority before travelers.”
Does it mean they have vacant positions but they don’t want to employ us because we’re from overseas and rather they will wait till some locals come? Probably, either way, we started to realize that there are more things to take care of during our travels, and we can’t simply be idealistic and naive too much whenever we are.
In two days, we have found the work on the apple orchard, we were about to do an apple thinning.
This was the beginning of our big apple adventure, as this was the first time we were going to work manually in nature. My husband as an artist spent most of his life studying and doing an intellectual work, painting, and lecturing. He dreamt about trying to work physically to experience something different and get into shape the old fashion way. It was the same for me, I have lived all my life in the capital, and now we’ve been on the orchard, far away from the noise and stress of the city, with its own pace and rules. I had no idea it will be a “fat burn slimming program” as well for us 🙂
To Be Continued…
© Independent Couple 2015