A Migrant Workers Status Survey has given an indication of what steps will be taken to provide support to repatriate foreign workers who are unemployed or facing being laid off.
The survey, initiated by the Private Sector Taskforce, was designed to provide an updated indication of the number of workers who are now available to go back to their home countries and will need to be supported or repatriated because of recent or near future redundancies.
From September 18, the Philippines government has arranged flights from Rarotonga via Auckland on a chartered Air Malaysia flight on a limited fortnightly basis.
A week ago, 11 Filipino workers who wanted to return home or have completed their employment contracts were allowed to board the Air New Zealand flight.
May Espasor, one of the returnees, worked for 18-months at Aramoana On The Beach and said she was returning to Iloilo City in the Philippines to take care of her mother.
Another returnee Rigo Garcia said he was excited to return home and be around family. He was working in Rarotonga for the last 18-months at the Edgewater Resort.
The Private Sector Task Force Team also said some Cook Island businesses are arranging for some Filipino staff to travel on those flights.
With new levels of community Covid-19 infection in New Zealand, the team predict the borders with New Zealand are likely to be closed until later in the year and possibly early 2021.
They said the Cook Islands Government’s extension of the wage subsidy until December has meant that businesses have been able to retain the majority of their workforce.
However, businesses continue to deplete their cash reserves and, in some cases, have increased their borrowings.
“Businesses are realising that there is only so much that they can do to keep their staff productive.”
Businesses are also realising that after the borders are open, they will need less staff to operate their business then before the borders closed.