Plea not to poach Christchurch IT staff

An appeal has gone out to employers not to try to lure information technology workers away from Christchurch as firms try to get back on their feet after February's earthquake.

An appeal has gone out to employers not to try to lure information technology workers away from Christchurch as firms try to get back on their feet after February's earthquake. Brett O'Riley, chief executive of industry body NZICT, said recruitment companies had targeted Christchurch in the wake of the disaster, including an Australian company that had been seeking to hire project managers. Recruiter Manpower drew criticism after posting an advertisement on jobsite Seek the day after the earthquake offering Cantabrians the chance "to get away for a while" by taking up engineering jobs in Australia. Manpower later removed the advertisement and apologised for its poor judgment. O'Riley said it was important the technology sector did the right thing. "Now is not the time to try and tempt skilled workers out of the city. Rather now is the time to keep talented people there so they can help with the rebuild." The issue was raised during a conference call with affected businesses and NZICT had been asked to help get the message out, he said. The appeal did not mean employers should not consider candidates from Christchurch, he said, and they should treat all job applications on their merits. "But allow those businesses a bit of breathing space to get up and going. Don't use the opportunity to lure away their key staff." Susan Hornsby-Geluk, an employment specialist at law firm Chen Palmer, said the Human Rights Act did not prevent employers from discriminating for or against job candidates based on where they lived. Employers would be entitled to favour a candidate that came from Christchurch if they wanted to help them move out of the city, or against them if they felt uncomfortable hiring a key staff member away from another employer in the immediate aftermath of the disaster. Grant Burley, director of recruitment firm AbsoluteIT, said about 100 IT workers from Christchurch had contacted the company since the earthquake seeking work elsewhere, close to three-quarters of whom wanted jobs in Auckland. "While they feel Wellington offers a good choice, family and career-wise, some have said they're well aware of the earthquake-prone nature of Wellington." He understood why people would want to leave Christchurch, "but now is the time the IT industry there can really step up and help business continuity". Beyond Recruitment director Ben Pearson said it had seen only "one or two" Cantabrians looking to move to Wellington and its Auckland office had fielded 10 to 15 inquiries from people across all sectors. "They've been pretty flexible about the sort of work they would do and a couple have said just give me a job doing anything. These are quite skilled people so some people are clearly under some financial stress." Ninetwenty general manager Nathan Masters said it experienced an upswing in Cantabrians looking to relocate directly after the earthquake, but interest had since dropped off. Christchurch internet provider Snap Internet had two people resign from its staff of 48 to leave the city. Chief executive Jamie Cairns said that was understandable but each would be missed. O'Riley said most technology businesses had not missed a beat and there was work in the city for contractors who were working on projects that had been curtailed. "What would concern us is if there was any suggestion by anyone that the industry wasn't going to recover." Most people who have lived in Canterbury long-term were determined to stay. "They see there is an opportunity now to do something quite exciting from the technology perspective here in Christchurch." Hornsby-Geluk said Christchurch employers were exploring creative options to hang on to staff for whom they had no work during a hiatus, including loaning out staff – with their agreement – to other employers and offering long-term leave without pay. "We are seeing a lot of employers negotiating arrangements with employees that would not be typical." - BusinessDay.co.nz

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