Why We Exist
NZEE exists to support employers within New Zealand’s Primary Industries to improve human rights in their supply chain, by developing effective approaches to implement the NZEE Human Rights Policy and Workplace Standards.
We aim to improve end-to-end quality of employment, to raise standards, and create a rights respecting baseline to level the playing field so that competitiveness is not at the expense of the worker.
NZEE is relevant to the expectations underlying mandatory human rights and supply chain due diligence in the EU and for those trading with EU, as set out in the EU-New Zealand Free Trade Agreement.
NZEE’s mission is to represent, protect and build a strong organization that provides a sustainable high-quality service to our members, to make a positive difference to workers' lives.
We are committed to decisive and collaborative action to drive ethical business practices in NZ.
The History of New Zealand Ethical Employers
Regional seasonal labour shortages were increasingly common in the 2000s, and there was increasing reliance on workers from overseas sources, particularly in the face of low national unemployment levels. At that time, the seasonal labour market was typified by very low productivity, high turnover, and illegal work practices. The Horticulture and Viticulture Seasonal Labour Strategy (the Strategy) set out to transform the seasonal labour market with a cross-sector approach in 2005.
The Recognised Seasonal Employer (RSE) Work Policy, announced in 2007, would facilitate the temporary entry of overseas workers to meet short-term or seasonal labour shortages. Workers from a select group of Pacific nations would be able to come to Aotearoa New Zealand to plant, maintain, prune, harvest, and pack crops in the horticulture and viticulture industries. Under the Strategy, working groups were set up by a National Labour Governance Group, with one in particular, Working Group 5 focusing on what labour supply contractors, who generally sat outside the membership of industry bodies, were doing. A more formal structure was suggested to create oversight of, and support for, the horticulture and viticulture contracting industry.
As a result, New Zealand Master Contractors Incorporated (NZMCI), was formed in association with the Labour Inspectorate as one of the outcomes of the Strategy. Launched by the Minister of Immigration, Shane Jones, in March 2008, it was anticipated that NZMCI would introduce a national programme to recognise contractor compliance and best practice,and ensuring the recently announced RSE scheme worked effectively.
The intention of NZMCI was a better organised, more productive, and more reliable workforce to service horticulture and viticulture exporters. In particular, growers were noting the increasing assurance required by export customers about the quality of products and the methods of production. Professionalising the management of labour through the NZMCI was seen as a solution, lifting standards and getting rid of rogue elements. NZMCI would be a national collective voice for all labour supply contractors who were members,and would enable members to network with other regions and move labour around much easier.
Research undertaken over late 2008 and early 2009 by NZMCI, in conjunction with the Department of Labour, looked at the long-term sustainability of seasonal employment, including improved productivity and attractiveness to employees. However, insufficient resourcing to allow for compliance action meant the intended compliance programme was never realised.
In 2019, a new and invigorated governance board began the process of reviewing the structure, strategy, and activities of NZMCI. In 2020 they undertook a structural review, and updated the constitution and rules to better reflect today’s seasonal labour market. In 2021, the membership voted to change the name of NZMCI to New Zealand Ethical Employers (NZEE) to better reflect the intentions of the association and its members.
In 2022 NZEE officially relaunched and reopened membership. Most of the initial members have continued their membership, supporting the intentions and objectives established early on. The organisation now extends its services beyond labour suppliers. Growers, wineries, packhouses and other industry service providers have recognised the advantages of the organisations operational support and resources, particularly in terms of human rights and labour rights perspectives.
The current membership collectively employs 34,391 people. Click Here to see current membership and compliance framework.
NZEE Human Rights Policy
This Policy is guided by international human rights principles encompassed by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights including those contained within the International Bill of Rights and the International Labor Organization’s 1998 Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work.
NZEE Workplace Standards
Respect for human rights is a core value of NZEE. We work to respect and promote human rights by following the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs).
For the purposes of these Workplace Standards, human rights are a set of rights which recognise the inherent dignity, freedom, and equality of all human beings, as expressed in the United Nation’s International Bill of Human Rights and in the International Labour Organisation’s 1998 Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work and as stipulated in any relevant New Zealand Human Rights laws.