Workers at Carter Holt Harvey’s (CHH) Wood Products plants around the country have received big payouts for holiday pay arrears, thanks to the tenacity of our fabulous team of delegates and members there.
“It was us delegates as a group that pushed and pushed and in the end we got the backpay,” says CHH delegate Wheeti Haenga, who is also the Convenor of the E tū Women’s Committee.
The push for arrears goes back to 2006, when the issue was first raised by the delegates, who realised holiday pay wasn’t taking into account longer than usual working days or various shifts, which meant workers weren’t paid what they would have received if they worked the day. “And, if you do a lot of overtime, which most of our workers do, then they would be owed even more,” Wheeti says.
Convinced they were right, the delegates raised the issue at every bargaining. They were met by strong resistance but they hung in there and, in May, E tū requested the relevant records and the company conducted a nationwide audit of holiday pay, “and we won!”
Since then, CHH has been paying arrears across all its sites, dating back to 2011. Some people got back pay in excess of $15,000.
“Some of our workers came to thank the union,” Wheeti says. “We’ve had people say, ‘Wow, we never thought we’d get this. Thanks so much!’ It’s a great windfall and so close to Christmas.”
Wheeti says she is determined to ensure everyone gets what they are owed, including tracking down the families of workers who have died. “One guy died of cancer and he was there for 15 years. So, they owe these families. We want everyone to get something.”
Meanwhile, E tū has successfully pursued back pay for holiday pay arrears at many other sites, including Contact Energy where one member was paid out more than $30,000. We have also worked with the Ministry of Health to develop a process for paying arrears to DHB workers, agreeing on a two-year programme with payouts set to benefit many of our members.
There’s much more to come for E tū members. With Holidays Act non-compliance affecting a massive portion of the workforce, members can expect more wins on the horizon.