Open Access Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington
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The communicative competence of Samoan seasonal workers under the Recognised Seasonal Employer (RSE) scheme

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Version 2 2022-03-03, 00:19
Version 1 2022-03-02, 01:29
posted on 2022-03-03, 00:19 authored by Honiara Salanoa
The Recognised Seasonal Employer (RSE) scheme is New Zealand’s first contract labour migration programme aimed at enhancing development in the Pacific and assisting employers in New Zealand (Gibson & McKenzie, 2010). The RSE is an important, distinct and arguably unrecognised workplace setting for participating Pacific Island countries. A focus on the communication within the teams in this setting has the potential to offer useful information to organisations to enhance practicalities, as well as to understand the role of culture in the communication practices of the sojourner groups. To capture a holistic understanding of the communication patterns of the Samoan seasonal workers, this study centres on workplace competence (including transactional and relational features of talk) specifically as it relates to the communication skills of seasonal workers from Samoa under the RSE scheme. The qualitative design of the study encompasses an ethnographic approach, which embraces in-depth semi-structured interviews alongside workplace observations and audio-recordings, in the context of horticultural work. It makes use of and extends Pacific methods by adopting the Fatugātiti model (a developing methodology that recognizes the subtleties and nuances of a Pacific context) and putting this model into practice, which I argue, is relevant to both analysis and to data collection methods where participants are co-researchers and equality is prioritised. Fieldwork involved two phases and was carried out for 8 months between February and December 2017. Following the established seasonal movement of workers (February-May in Samoa) and (June-December in New Zealand), Phase 1 was carried out in Samoa, where seasonal workers from two groups were interviewed in their villages prior to their travel to New Zealand. The second data collection phase (Phase 2) involved observations, recordings and debriefs and was carried out in New Zealand, in the Hawkes Bay and the Bay of Plenty, where the seasonal workers from the participating groups are contracted for employment. Drawing on data collected from participants in (1) an established and (2) a novice group of Samoan seasonal workers, this research explores transactional and relational practices in workplace discourse. My analysis indicates that these practices are community driven, that is, the ways in which the participants enact task-based and people-focussed interactional strategies in the workplace are shaped and motivated by the cultural norms they bring with them. These practices are employed as a means to encourage productivity, accomplish workplace goals and simultaneously support relationships and contribute to team culture. Despite being in a foreign country and working in unfamiliar conditions, the data provides evidence of participants adapting to new contexts, seeing the benefit in the work they do and finding a collective routine to negotiate working life while in New Zealand. Findings from this study exemplify strong Samoan cultural traditions that people integrate into day-to-day customs and practices. The inherent relationships, the multifaceted layers of interactive solidarity, the group dynamics and the dimensions of hierarchy are a manifestation of culture enacted in ways that are specific to the particular workplace. For these groups of seasonal workers, their practices illustrate activities that are deep-rooted in the cultural norms of families, churches and village communities. The use of transactional and relational practices and the emphasis on working together as a group serves to conserve and stabilise the community in the field. This study aims to make a contribution to the use of culturally appropriate research methods for workplace communication, especially in the under researched area of blue-collar work environments. It also addresses the need for greater engagement with analytic frameworks that take account of Pacific knowledge and skills, embedded in the context of Samoa. The research strengthens the current dialogue in the workplace context, especially around issues of mobility as well as intercultural and multilingual interaction.


Copyright Date


Date of Award



Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Rights License

Author Retains All Rights

Degree Discipline

Applied Linguistics

Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Degree Level


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Doctoral Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

School of Linguistics and Applied Language Studies


Marra, Meredith; Parkinson, Jean