Extension of contracts disallowed: Vanuatu Labour Commissioner

Vanuatu seasonal workers.

Vanuatu’s Department of Labour and Employment Services, through Commissioner Murielle Meltenoven has announced this week their decision to disallow the extension of contracts for Ni-Vanuatu seasonal workers participating in the Labour Mobility programme in New Zealand and Australia.

Prior to the lockdown, workers left Vanuatu to work under a fixed contract within a fixed timeframe.

Unfortunately, the pandemic resulted in the lockdown, which forced them to extend their contracts.

With the reopening of the border, some of these workers continue to remain overseas.

According to the Labour Commissioner, there is an increase in social problems and behavioural issues involving workers, which leads to distress for families in Vanuatu.

“From the Vanuatu Government’s perspective, the choice of participation of a Labour Mobility worker commences at the level of the family, community, and the National government.

All these parties are consenting for a Ni-Vanuatu to participate in the programmes,” Meltenoven stated.

She added that the Vanuatu Government is also prioritising the welfare of Vanuatu labour mobility workers and their families.

Given the reopening of the border in July, the Labour Department is calling on all workers that have had their contracts extended due to border lockdown to return to Vanuatu.

Workers are required to return to Vanuatu at the end of their contracts and complete their offshore period in Vanuatu before returning overseas.

“If an Approved Employer (AE) would like to offer a new contract to the same worker, that worker needs to get the endorsement from their relatives for the new contract, as per the usual process and the consent must be processed in Vanuatu and not in Australia or New Zealand,” she explained.

The decision is effective from 7 November 2022 and is made pursuant to Section 23(7) of the Seasonal Employment Act 2007.

It authorises the Commissioner of Labour to issue advisory guidelines, for the purpose of proper implementation of the Labour Mobility Programme, for the mutual benefit of all parties engaged in different Labour Mobility Programmes.