Category: Manufacturing

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

Strike at Pacific Steel

Members at BlueScope Pacific Steel in Auckland will strike for 24 hours on Wednesday, 15 August.

Members will walk off the job from 7am in protest over the break down in their pay talks.

An overtime ban has been in place at the Otahuhu site since Friday.

E tū Industry Coordinator, Joe Gallagher says workers voted to strike after five months of frustrating pay talks, with BlueScope refusing to make a decent pay offer – despite its huge profit, unveiled yesterday.

“BlueScope has more than doubled its net profit this year to almost AUD$1.6 billion and lifted their pay out to shareholders,” says Joe.

“The New Zealand side of the business delivered a lift in earnings of more than 80 percent – the highest return in the group. To suppress wages in the wake of this stellar result is unacceptable,” he says.

Joe says members met the company for mediation on Friday and thought they had a deal.

However, he says the company quickly withdrew its offer and members imposed the overtime ban and voted to strike.

“Our members have taken a hit in recent years – they’ve taken modest pay rises and worked with the company to cut costs to support the business. Now it’s bounced back but it isn’t prepared to share the bounty with its workers.

“Their Australian counterparts have had the same offer and are also voting on strike action. It’s clear BlueScope has taken a trans-Tasman approach to bargaining with their low-ball offer.

“These are highly skilled production and trades workers who use their hearts, heads, and hands every day to make the profits this company now enjoys. That is particularly true here in New Zealand, so the company needs to make an offer that reflects that benefit.”

ENDS

For further information, contact:

Joe Gallagher Industry Coordinator E tū ph. 027 591 0015 or

Ahlene McKee E tū Northern Region Director of Organising ph. 027 591 0065

Members will be picketing outside the mill tomorrow from 7am-11am.

Where: James Fletcher Drive, Otahuhu.

Sistema CEO hiding from workers

Sistema CEO Drew Muirhead has refused to meet with worker representatives to receive a petition signed by more than 300 Sistema workers.

The petition reminds Sistema that its high productivity levels and product quality are due in large part to its workers, and in return they should be respected and rewarded with fair pay.

E tū advocate Neville Donaldson says the signatories include both union and non-union workers at the giant plastics firm, “which shows you how aggrieved people are feeling,” he says.

“Anger over their working conditions extends across the entire factory floor. When non-union workers join their unionised colleagues to protest about lack of respect, you know there’s a problem,” Neville says.

“In this case, everyone wanted to express their frustration over not being valued for their contribution to Sistema’s success – something Sistema’s management has refused to take on board.

“They feel no obligation to respect or reward workers fairly.”

E tū delegates at Sistema say workers are fed up with compulsory 60-hour weeks for minimum rates of pay, as well as the terrible working conditions.

This week workers revealed via social media the blisters and callouses on their hands from the hard work they do. As one delegate told E tū: “It’s a sweatshop.”

Neville says Sistema’s refusal to deal with the concerns of its workers goes to the heart of the labour reforms of the current Government which has recognized the need for change.

ENDS

For more information, contact:

Neville Donaldson E tū advocate and National Director of Industries ph. 027 543 5312

No relief at Sistema sweatshop

E tū says Sistema’s American owners are determined to preserve the sweatshop conditions established by former owner, Brendan Lindsay who sold the company for $660 million.

The union has been in talks with this wealthy company, seeking better pay and conditions for its mainly migrant workers.

But E tū advocate, Neville Donaldson says Sistema’s multi-billion-dollar owner, Newell Brands refuses to consider anything more than the bare legal minimum.

“They’ve told us they won’t deliver any pay and conditions much more than the law requires for the vast majority of its staff – that’s bare bones minimum wages for workers who are required to work five 12-hour days – that’s 60 hours a week.

“Overtime” rates are just $2 more per hour and is only paid out after 60 hours per week.

“Some people work 12- hour days, seven days a week,” says Neville who accuses Sistema of the systematic exploitation of its predominantly Indian, Filipino and Pasifika workforce.

“They’re predominantly migrants and come from a back ground of having no choice but to accept whatever they are offered,” he says.

“Sistema is exploiting this belief, and the workers as a result.”

E tū delegate, Maria Latu says,” People think they are made to work like robots here. The operators are overworked and the money they get at the end of the week isn’t worth it.

“They deserve better,” she says.

Neville says Sistema is a perfect example of why workers need fair pay agreements.

“Sistema seems proud to be the lowest paid plastics firm in the country, with the worst conditions of employment and the longest hours, whilst lauding the success of its products.

“It must be challenged over its behaviour. If it goes unchallenged, then other employers may feel they also have to reduce pay and conditions to compete.

“Sistema needs to grow a soul and consider what’s fair for workers. The public is growing impatient with wealthy, exploitative companies – and that certainly describes Sistema.”

Neville says the union is looking to mediation next month to break the stalemate.

He says the union has strong support on site, with membership growing to more than 200 as workers grow sick of the long hours, low pay and fatigue of their grinding working week.

ENDS

For more information, contact:

Neville Donaldson E tū National Industry Strategy Director (Food) ph. 027 543 5312

 

 

Closure of iconic Christchurch plant

E tū is extremely concerned to see another local manufacturer shutting up shop and heading overseas.

Schneider Electric confirmed today it is closing its Christchurch plant and shifting operations to Australia and Vietnam with the loss of about 50 jobs.

The plant, which produces light switches and power plugs, was formerly part of iconic Christchurch company PDL, with a decades-long history in the city.

“These are quality fittings and they’ve been very popular for many years. They’re in most New Zealand homes and would be instantly recognisable to most Kiwis,” says E tū Industry Coordinator, Phil Knight.

Phil says a number of workers have been with the firm since its days as PDL, with one long serving staffer clocking up 42 years on the job.

“This is a workforce that’s very much a big family. They’re proud of their product and also very sad to bid farewell to their workmates and friends,” says Phil.

The announcement comes just weeks after ABCorp announced it was closing its Christchurch plastic card factory and also relocating abroad.

“We’ve seen a string of these closures, and every time it’s a blow for our members and the economy,” says Phil.

“The official line is there’s a buoyant job market out there, but manufacturing jobs like these have provided secure, well-paid, permanent, full-time jobs. These are now a relative rarity.

“However, these workers do have skills and good work records that would be of interest to any employer in any number of industries,” he says.

Phil says the union will be promoting their interests once a closure date is confirmed.

Schneider’s other New Zealand operations are not affected by the closure.

ENDS

For more information, contact:

Phil Knight E tū Industry Coordinator ph. 027 591 0053

 

100 jobs at Juken’s Gisborne mill on the chopping block

Juken New Zealand Ltd (JNL) has announced a proposal to nearly halve its workforce at their East Coast mill in Gisborne.

E tū represents production workers at the mill. E tū Engineering Industry Coordinator Ron Angel says the move would be a big blow to the community.

“As the only significant wood manufacturer in the area, the livelihood of many family relies on jobs at the mill,” Ron says.

“E tū and FIRST Union will be working hard to save these jobs, but the company is very serious about this proposal.”

The company is entering the consultation period today.

“Once such a consultation begins, it’s very difficult to save the jobs that are on the chopping block. This could be the start of some real hardship for many East Coast families.”

Ron says that this proposed downsize, as well as recent news about the likely closure of ABCorp’s Christchurch plastic card manufacturing plant, demonstrates the need for urgent action from the Government to save our manufacturing industry.

“The Labour-led coalition Government has made a strong commitment to protecting working families and helping with decent regional employment opportunities.

“After nine years of a National Government that treated Kiwi workers as an afterthought, we expect the current Government to step up on these issues as a matter of priority.”

ENDS

FIRST Union President Robert Reid will represent the unions in the media.
For more information or comment, please contact:
Robert Reid – 021 535 933

Dozens to lose jobs as Christchurch card plant set to close

About 50 workers are set to lose their jobs after a prominent plastic card manufacturer has proposed moving operations to Australia.

ABCorp have informed workers of their intention to close their plastic card manufacturing plant in Christchurch by as early as 30 March, after a three-week consultation process.

E tū spokesperson Joe Gallagher said the workers are shocked by the news. While a final decision has not yet been made, the future doesn’t look good.

“It’s really come out of the blue for them and the short consultation period makes us think that the company’s mind is made up,” Joe says.

“Most people will have cards in their wallet that were made at this site. They produce bank cards, ID cards, loyalty cards and a lot more. It’s a real shame that these good kiwi-made products are just the next product to have production moved off-shore.”

Joe says that while the company may offer employment at other sites, this would be unrealistic for most workers.

“Families can’t just up and move to New South Wales. The company has indicated that they may help people find other jobs – we expect them to take the commitment very seriously.”

Joe says that these and other types of jobs could be saved by the Government taking a better look at local procurement, particularly as the closure comes after the company has lost a number of local contracts.

“Our new Government has made a strong commitment to New Zealand workers and their families. We’d like to see a Government-led commitment to local procurement in manufacturing and in fact, across all industries.”

ENDS

For more info or comment:
Joe Gallagher – 027 591 0015

E tū fights employer moves to undermine minimum wage rise

E tū is very disappointed to learn that some employers are trying to avoid the upcoming minimum wage increase by building workers’ allowances into their basic hourly pay.

The allowances are typically paid for such things as service, travel time and in recognition of shift work.

E tū’s Industry Coordinator Food Sector, Phil Knight says the union believes it may be dealing with a collective employer strategy to undermine a higher minimum wage.

“For employers to move allowances into the basic rate would be to neutralise any increase provided for in the hourly rate effective from 1 April 2018,” says Phil.

“This would undermine workers’ right to fair pay and a reasonable standard of living, especially those on the lowest possible pay rate who are struggling to pay their way now and can’t live on less.”

Phil says E tū is currently bargaining with two employers about this issue, and it is urging workers who are not currently in a union to join so they are protected.

“Union members know not to sign these contracts and they have the union officials available to advise and represent them.

“However, non-union workers won’t be so sure and may think they have no choice but to agree.  They need to know that is not the case, and if they do sign, they are giving away benefits and a minimum wage increase they desperately need.

“Meanwhile, we would say to employers: don’t do this.  It is unreasonable and unfair, and you are only going to make life more difficult for the most disadvantaged workers who have enough problems already.”

ENDS

For more information, contact:

Phil Knight E tū Industry Coordinator, Food Sector ph. 027 591 0053

 

 

E tū extremely disappointed with MBIE report on cheap Chinese steel

E tū is extremely disappointed with a report which has found there is little evidence of steel dumping in New Zealand by China.

The report details the findings of an enquiry by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment into a complaint by NZ Steel that imported Chinese galvanised steel coil is subsidised, making it hard for New Zealand steel producers to compete.

The report found no evidence of anything more than “minimal” subsidies, with the government announcing it won’t act on the complaint.

E tū Industry Coordinator, Joe Gallagher says there are serious questions about the rigour of the research underpinning the report.

“Only one Chinese manufacturer responded to questions from the enquiry about subsidies. The Chinese government barely responded either, claiming its steel producers wouldn’t cooperate.

“MBIE admits its findings rest on “very limited information”, their words – then tells us that “on that basis”, it concludes that the Chinese subsidies are minimal.

“This isn’t just disappointing. It’s frightening that the livelihoods of entire communities rest on this poor-quality enquiry and report which shrugs off the failure of key players to answer questions at the heart of the NZ Steel’s complaint.”

Joe says the government’s refusal to act is also “a further kick in the guts” for local steel producers who also face pressure from Emissions Trading Scheme charges and the threat of big price hikes by power industry lines companies.

“There is clear evidence of an over-supply of steel coming in from China at below market prices,” says Joe.

“There are no proper quality checks in China to make sure this steel is of the proper standard, such as are required of NZ Steel, and equally, there are no tariffs on these products.

“It’s not a level playing field,” he says.

ENDS

For further information, contact:

Joe Gallagher E tū Industry Coordinator ph. 027 591 0015.