Author: E tū

Open letter presented to Sistema CEO

At midday today, Sistema workers, together with community leaders and local and national politicians will present Sistema CEO Drew Muirhead with thousands of open letters, urging the company to improve the pay and conditions of its workers.

E tū says it’s a strong message from the public to Sistema, which the union understands is struggling to find staff after revelations of the low pay and long hours.

At Sistema, most members earn the minimum wage and are required to work a 60-hour week.

E tū organiser, Fala Haulangi says a widely circulated photo of the burnt and blistered hands of a Sistema worker has also exposed the poor working conditions.

“People who work at Sistema often leave work exhausted and in tears,” says Fala.

“However, our members are buoyed by the support they’ve had from the many thousands of people who have signed these letters.”

Fala says the union believes the sweatshop conditions may now be affecting production and that it has been told Sistema is 50 workers short of what’s needed.

“We’ve told Sistema something has to be done, and it looks like workers are voting with their feet,” she says.

“This is their busy season, but we’ve heard machines are sitting idle which need to be operating to fill orders. Drew Muirhead needs to know there is a cost to the low pay and long hours.”

Delegates at the plant agree.

“If they want to hire more people, they’re going to have to improve wages and conditions,” says E tū delegate and Sistema worker, Maria Latu.

“Because now, people hate coming to work. They say it is like working in a jail. The CEO needs to think about that and do something, or he’ll turn around and there won’t be anyone there.”

ENDS

What: presentation of open letters, calling on Sistema to improve wages and conditions

When: midday, Friday 19:  everyone meets at 11.45am in the Sistema carpark.

Who: Sistema union members and delegates; MP Marama Davidson; Auckland councillor, Josephine Bartley; community leaders including churches and migrant union, Migrante.

Where: Sistema, 221 Ihumatao Road, Mangere, Auckland

For further information, contact:

Mat Danaher Campaign Lead organiser E tū ph. 021 336 519

 

 

Huhtamaki job losses devastating blow

E tū says the loss of 128 jobs at the Huhtamaki factory in Henderson is a devastating blow for workers there.

Union Lead Organiser, Alvin Livingstone says E tū has 150 members at the packaging plant, who have yet to learn who will stay and who will go, with workers experiencing a range of emotions.

“This is a big hit for workers, their families and the west Auckland community. Add the fact that Christmas is looming, and this is very hard news for them,” he says.

Alvin says the company claims it remains committed to manufacturing in New Zealand, “but if these job losses go ahead, Huhtamaki will have laid off over 260 workers in the last eight years.

“The restructure is also disappointing given the company’s half yearly results show strong sales in the Europe-Asia-Oceania region. It’s profitable but obviously not enough to satisfy the company.”

Huhtamaki will now manufacture paper and plastic hot and cold cups, plastic takeaway containers, and wine dividers at its Asian factories.

“It’s just another example of a big multinational deciding to move production somewhere else, at a huge cost to local workers,” says Alvin.

He says the priority now is to explore redeployment options for affected members, as well as job opportunities with local employers for soon-to-be redundant workers.

“The redundancy process will be worked through rigorously to ensure fairness and the best outcome for affected members,” says Alvin.

ENDS.

For further information, contact:

 Alvin Livingstone E tū Lead Organiser, ph. 027549 1410

 

E tū welcomes construction initiatives

E tū says it is supportive of new government initiatives to bolster recruitment and training in the construction industry.

The initiatives, announced in Auckland today, also include new visa rules to make it easier to employ skilled migrants for specific projects.

E tū Industry Coordinator, Ron Angel says the plan means the Government will require the building companies it works with to provide training and skill development, “which we support,” he says.

He says the policy also recognises the industry is changing, with the development of new qualifications in specialised areas such as framing manufacturing and the assembly of prefabricated buildings.

“We’re in favour of this, especially if you get a qualification or credentials and you get extra money for that,” he says.

“It’s also good to see innovative new materials show-cased today, including the XLAN cross-laminated timber and construction process.”

Ron says the establishment of more industry hubs, with all the services needed to maximise recruitment, training and career development is also a sound move.

“We saw these set up in Christchurch after the quakes and they were very effective with a lot of activity generated out of them,” says Ron. “It’s a good idea.”

Ron says the union also supports planned visa changes to expedite the hiring of skilled migrants.

“These were flagged back in June and include the requirement that accredited employers including labour hire companies meet good employment standards and are committed to employing local workers.

“We are supportive of this, given the protections for migrant and local workers, as well as a construction boom that’s expected to last for many years.

“The demand for labour isn’t going to ease in the short term but the priority needs to be local jobs, training and career paths for New Zealand workers.”

ENDS

For further information, contact:

Ron Angel E tū Industry Coordinator, ph. 027 591 0055

 

E tū welcomes High Court ruling on steel dumping

E tū says its support for NZ Steel’s complaint of steel-dumping by China has been vindicated by a High Court ruling directing MBIE to reinvestigate.

NZ Steel claimed Chinese producers of galvanised steel coil were heavily subsidised by the Chinese government and this negatively affected its business.

However, in a decision last year, MBIE said it found little evidence of steel dumping with the government deciding not to impose tariffs on Chinese steel makers.

NZ Steel sought a judicial review of the decision, with the High Court ordering MBIE to reconsider the complaint and quashing the government’s decision.

E tū Industry Coordinator, Joe Gallagher says it was clear at the time that MBIE’s investigation lacked rigour, and the union welcomes the High Court’s decision on the matter.

“Among the key grounds cited by NZ Steel for its judicial review was the paucity of information provided to the investigation by the Chinese government and producers – something that disturbed us at the time, so we feel vindicated by this decision,” says Joe.

“Now, not only will MBIE have to reinvestigate – it will also have to be much more rigorous in scrutinising the level of support for Chinese steel manufacturers by banks and other entities – which it failed to do first time around.”

Joe says the ruling has also upheld NZ Steel’s view that overseas investigations had found the Chinese Government had subsidised steel products, thus providing relevant evidence which MBIE wrongly discounted in its advice to the Minister.

“This is a common-sense ruling which recognises the very poor quality of MBIE’s original inquiry,” says Joe.

“We’ll be keen to see what they come back with next time, given they’ve just been given pretty clear directions on what’s expected.

“For the sake of our steel industry, it’s critical to get it right.”

ENDS

For more information, contact:

Joe Gallagher Industry Coordinator E tū ph. 027 591 0015

E tū welcomes Suffrage Day equal pay bill

E tū has welcomed the introduction to parliament today of the Equal Pay Amendment Bill, which the union believes will ease the way for women pursuing equal pay claims.

Government Ministers, Eugenie Sage and Iain Lees-Galloway announced the new bill at a Suffrage Day petition re-enactment at parliament by union women to mark the 125th anniversary of women’s suffrage.

The Bill preserves the Equal Pay Act 1972, which E tū has always supported.

It also includes the recommendations of the Joint Working Group on Pay Equity Principles but without the hurdles proposed by the last Government, which would have made it very difficult for women to take equal pay cases.

“The previous government reneged on the joint working group recommendations and deliberately set it up to make it harder for women to get equal pay,” says New Zealander of the Year and E tū equal pay pioneer, Kristine Bartlett.

Kristine, who was present at today’s announcement, says it’s the perfect way to mark the suffrage anniversary.

“It’s wonderful!  That’s the great thing about it – it’s happening on this historic day,” Kristine says.

E tū’s Campaign lead organiser, Yvette Taylor says Kate Sheppard believed equal pay was the next great battle after votes for women.

“It’s fantastic to hear about the new legislation on such a special day,” says Yvette.

“We’re pleased that it sets a lower bar for cases to progress, particularly with the parties involved able to set their own comparators.

This resolves two key problems with the previous legislation,” she says.

ENDS

For more information, contact:

Yvette Taylor E tū’s Campaign lead organiser ph. 027 431 8486

 

 

 

Nearly 900 to strike at BlueScope steel mills

E tū members at BlueScope Pacific Steel in Auckland will strike for a second time for 24 hours, from 7am on Wednesday, 19 September in protest over 6 months of stalled pay talks.

The strike affects about 120 members at Pacific Steel’s rolling mill and wire mill.

Also, at 7am on Wednesday, about 750 members from BlueScope’s NZ Steel mill at Glenbrook will strike for 12 hours.

Union members voted to strike over the low-ball pay offers BlueScope has presented to its workers both here and in Australia, where BlueScope members in Port Kembla have begun rolling strike action.

E tū Industry Coordinator, Joe Gallagher says BlueScope refuses to budge on their offer, despite posting a huge profit of AUD$1.6 billion this year.

BlueScope’s New Zealand companies lifted earnings by 80% – the highest return in the business.

“While our Government is committed to lifting wages, internationally employers are coordinating a strategy to hold wages down,” says Joe.

“There is a clear and growing trend of top multi-national companies presenting low pay offers, despite big profits.”

At NZ Steel, workers had a pay rise of just one percent over the past two years and also gave up their bonuses, saving BlueScope millions of dollars.

“Fair’s fair,” says Joe. “It’s time to give back to the workers who took a hit when times were tough. This is hot, dirty and hazardous work and yes, our members get paid for that.

“But this is a dispute about a company that’s delivered an eye-watering profit and thinking it’s ok to offer a mean-spirited pay rise to its highly skilled steel workers. It isn’t.”

ENDS

For further information, contact:

Joe Gallagher Industry Coordinator E tū ph. 027 591 0015

Members will be picketing outside the Pacific Steel mill tomorrow from 7am

Where: James Fletcher Drive, Otahuhu.

 

Strike at OceanaGold Waihi mine

Workers at OceanaGold’s Waihi underground mine will walk off the job for 48 hours on Saturday in support of their pay claims.

The 90 members will strike from 7.15pm on Saturday until 7.15pm on Monday.

The strike is the first of a series of planned stoppages over the coming weeks.

OceanaGold has enjoyed a record profit this year, with the company boasting of strong margins and promising greater returns to shareholders.

E tū organiser, Myles Leeson says the Waihi mine is also expanding, with recent surveys revealing a rich vein of gold in a new field – up to seven times the amount that was expected.

“The company’s doing really well, and they’ve got to share that with the workers,” says Myles.

“They need to remember who digs that gold out of the ground for them and reward them with a fair pay rise.”

Myles says members have agreed to a union-initiated roster which reduces their excessive hours which have led to problems with fatigue. However, he says this will mean pay cuts of up to 19 percent.

“They’ve accepted this and are comfortable with it. They’ve been working ridiculous hours to get a decent wage. So, they need a fair pay rate, so they can earn a living without unsafe working hours.”

ENDS

For more information, contact:

Myles Leeson E tū organiser, ph. 027 536 2690

 

 

Report: housing, pay critical issues for migrants

Low pay and poor housing have emerged as critical issues in a report commissioned by E tū on the experiences of migrant workers.

The report has been released today at events in Auckland and Christchurch.

The research, which was funded by the Industrial Relations Fund, records the experiences of mostly Filipino construction workers in Christchurch and Auckland in 2017 and 2018.

The report, by researcher and lawyer, Catriona MacLennan also reveals wide-spread exploitation of migrants by immigration companies and so-called pastoral care companies.

Most experienced pay discrimination. While one earned $27.00 an hour – compared with $35.00 paid to Kiwi workers – he said others earn much less – $19 and $22.00 an hour.

Housing is a critical issue.  In one case, three of the workers interviewed shared a sleepout with another ten in the house, all paying $150.00 a week. In another case, four families shared a four-bedroom home. Many experience damp, unhealthy living conditions.

Many are in debt to immigration companies when they arrive, while others were being gouged by companies providing services such as a car or internet access.

Most complained their pay was too low to meet immigration criteria for extended or permanent working visas or residency.

“For the first time there is research which shows migrant workers who are Filipino being underpaid because they are Filipino and for no other reason,” says Ron Angel, E tū Industry Coordinator Engineering and Infrastructure.

“When I was reading this, it nearly brought me to tears. The angst they were going through, and the suffering on a daily basis, being away from their families…and what got me was, here we were welcoming these people into New Zealand to help rebuild Canterbury and we didn’t look after them.

“In fact, we made life terrible for them and I feel ashamed.”

Ron says the issue of expensive, unhealthy housing also needs to be dealt with.

“If you’re going to decide you need migrant workers, then there needs to be reasonable housing for them,” he says.

“You can’t just bring them in and throw them into anything you can find.”

Ron says the report recommends government action, to ensure new-comers are properly supported and get the advice they need.

“If Immigration NZ wants these workers here, then it needs to provide that pastoral care,” says Ron.

ENDS

For further information, contact

Ron Angel E tū Industry Coordinator Engineering and Infrastructure ph. 027 591 0055

Click here to download the full report.

Fed up Gateway mental health workers to strike

Mental health workers at Nelson-based Gateway Trust will walk off the job on Tuesday, 21 August to protest years of delays in sorting out new employment conditions.

Two strike notices have been issued. The first is for the stoppage on Tuesday for one hour, from 3pm to 4pm, when members will be picketing.

The Trust, which provides mental health services as well as the Snapshot outreach service for young people, operates in Greymouth, Nelson, Motueka, and Blenheim.

The Collective Agreement expired more than two years ago, and with restructuring changes at Gateway, the matter is now urgent, says E tū organiser, Ria Holmes.

“Any attempt to settle the Agreement has met with excuses, obfuscation and delays by Trust management,” she says.

“Workers feel they are being bullied. They’ve been threatened with the loss of their jobs and the Trust is restructuring which could affect members’ hours and even their jobs.

“They want the protection of a Collective Agreement. We are also seeking the inclusion of a redundancy clause, given the threats that have been made.”

Gateway delegate, Marie Benton says members reluctantly voted to strike because it was the only option left after months of talks, including mediation.

“Taking time away from vulnerable children and adults is a hard thing to do”, she says.

“But in the same way that nurses and teachers have been speaking out, we have to stand up for what’s right.

“We care for and support people who face real challenges in managing their mental health. Yet our management shows none of the care and support you’d expect from an organisation which provides these services.”

Ria says Gateway is alienating a workforce that is professional and dedicated, raising serious questions about its ability to provide leadership in mental health services.

ENDS

Gateway Trust picket:

When: 3pm – 4pm, Tuesday, 21 August

Where: Cnr Waimea Rd and Market Rd near the Gateway Trust HQ.

For more information, contact:

Ria Holmes E tū Nelson organiser ph. 027 590 0060

Ria can provide contact details for our Gateway delegates.