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Monday, December 1, 2014

New Zealand butchers travel more than 10000 miles for work in Iceland

How far is your workplace – how much do you travel to reach your workplace – and are you working and staying in a place far away from your homeland ?

Iceland is a Nordic country between the North Atlantic and the Arctic Ocean.  The capital and largest city is Reykjavík; the surrounding areas in the southwest of the country are home to two-thirds of the population. Iceland is volcanically and geologically active.  In its long history, from 1262 to 1918,   Iceland was ruled by Norway and later Denmark. The country became independent in 1918 and a republic in 1944. Until the 20th century, Iceland relied largely on fishing and agriculture.  Iceland has a free-market economy with relatively low taxes.

It has plethora of animals that include the Icelandic sheep, cattle, chickens, goats, the sturdy Icelandic horse, and the Icelandic sheepdog, all descendants of animals imported by Europeans. Wild mammals include the Arctic fox, mink, mice, rats, rabbits and reindeer. Polar bears occasionally visit the island, travelling on icebergs from Greenland.  Icelandic sheep  is a breed of domestic sheep with mid-sized breed, generally short legged and stocky, with face and legs free of wool.  Generally left unshorn for the winter, the breed is very cold-hardy.   A gene also exists in the breed called the Þoka gene, and ewes carrying it have been known to give birth to triplets, quadruplets, quintuplets, and even sextuplets on occasion.   At summer’s apex, before the annual slaughter, the number of sheep in Iceland outnumbers the human population three to one.

Thousands of miles away, down under is the Cricketing country of Newzealand, an island country in the southwestern Pacific Ocean. The country geographically comprises two main landmasses – that of the North Island  and the South Island,  and numerous smaller islands. New Zealand is situated some 1,500 kilometres (900 mi) east of Australia across the Tasman Sea. ~ and this post is about kiwi butchers travelling 13850 miles for work.  BBC reports that Shawn Parkinson and other Kiwi butchers work for two months for SAH Products in Blondous, Iceland. Every year, several dozen butchers make an epic commute - from provincial New Zealand to rural Iceland - for just two months' work. It's at the extreme end of the trend for fly-in fly-out workers.

As work commutes go, Shawn Parkinson's journey takes some beating. Dannevirke to Auckland - six-hour drive. Auckland to Sydney - three-hour flight. Sydney to Dubai - 14 and a half hours in the air. Dubai to London - seven-hour flight. London to Reykjavik - almost three hours' flying time. Reykjavik to Blonduos, north-west Iceland - three-hour drive. Two months later, he repeats all 22,300km (about 13,850 miles) on the return leg. Every September, he and 30 other New Zealand butchers travel to Iceland for its lamb processing season. It's an annual trek Mr Parkinson has made for the past seven years.

To them it is the experience of a lifetime. It's the other side of the world and you can still get a bit of work. Flights and accommodation are paid by their Icelandic bosses - who struggle to find trained locals for just eight weeks' work - and the wages are similar to those found in New Zealand. The chain - as a production line is called in the meat industry - runs from 07:30 in the morning until 18:00, five days a week with a few half-Saturdays.  He feels a kinship with Icelanders. "They're descended from the Vikings and we are mostly Maori, so we share a warrior history and a similar attitude.  The season is too short - and the factories too remote - for Iceland's butchers to be prepared to relocate. And to train locals from scratch takes too long. So they thought of the better option of getting butchers from far away kiwiland.  The New Zealanders do the skilled butchery jobs on the chain, with labourers from Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic assigned to tasks involving heavy lifting and offal.  The Kiwis are reliable workers - never sick, always do a 100% job," says  their employer.

The online application form to work at Nordlenska asks prospective employees to rate their English language - not Icelandic - skills. The unemployment rate is rather low in Iceland compared to the rest of Europe so it is sometimes difficult to get Icelandic workers for seasonal work. It is stated that this started in 2003 and is continuing despite the distance involved. 

With regards – S. Sampathkumar

18th Nov. 2014

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