Category: Engineering, Infrastructure, and Extractions

E tū welcomes Pike River re-entry

E tū has welcomed the decision to proceed with the re-entry of the Pike River mine drift in a bid to uncover the cause of death of the 29 men who died there in November 2010.

The Minister in charge of the re-entry effort, Andrew Little made the announcement this morning, together with some of the Pike River families, E tū officials, police, and members of the Pike River Recovery Agency.

“This is a major victory for the families and their supporters who fought hard for this outcome, which we hope will further illuminate the cause of this tragedy which cost the lives of 29 workers,” says Paul Tolich, E tū Senior Industrial Officer.

“The more we know, the more we can plan to protect lives in high-risk industries,” he says.

“For the families, it holds the hope of closure and it is a milestone in the campaign for justice.

“It is also important for health and safety and the prevention of deaths on the job. All workers have the right to return home to their families at the end of the working day.

“The union also congratulates Andrew Little, the Minister responsible for the Pike River entry, who has shown fine leadership in carrying this task through to fruition.

“Although she is no longer with us, Helen Kelly has also been vindicated in her support for the families and the fight to re-enter the mine.

“This also shows what can be achieved by those who battle for a just outcome. The families have shown that if you campaign long enough and your cause is just, you can achieve success despite the naysayers who told the families they were wasting their time.

“When you have a government determined to do the right thing, you can achieve an outcome that serves justice and vindicates the families’ long years of struggle.

“This is yet again another example where the Labour/NZ First government has fulfilled the promises made on the campaign trail.”

ENDS

For more information, contact:

Paul Tolich E tū Senior Industrial Officer ph. 027 593 5595

 

Big fine after worker caught in press

31 October 2018

MEDIA RELEASE

Big fine after worker caught in press

E tū has welcomed the big fine handed down to Carter Holt Harvey LVL plant at Ruakaka in Northland after a member was seriously injured in October 2016.

Steven Vincent had his chest and shoulder crushed, suffering multiple fractures, lacerations and lung injuries after his body became trapped in a conveyor belt at the plant.

A WorkSafe investigation found the LVL press machine wasn’t guarded, in breach of the company’s health and safety procedures.

In the District Court in Whangarei today, CHH LVL Ruakaka was ordered to pay Mr Vincent $55,000 in reparations, and fined $371,000 plus costs.

E tū organiser, Annie Tothill says the judge said he had taken into account the fact that there were more than 26 previous cases involving Carter Holt Harvey, some involving a lack of guarding, which in this case added another $60,000 to the fine.

“This was essential guarding,” says Annie.

“Steve was putting his body at risk.  His whole body went into the press. Not only was there inadequate guarding: there was no guarding at all.”

Annie says the fine sends a message that workplaces must be safe and that a failure to meet basic safety requirements is unacceptable.

“Steve has suffered months of agony and recovery from his injuries – he’s only recently had more surgery for the lung damage caused by this terrible accident and may require more,” says Annie.

“He is lucky to be alive.”

ENDS

For more information, contact:

Annie Tothill E tū organiser ph. 027 573 4934

 

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

 

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.

 

Second strike at OceaniaGold Waihi mine

Workers at OceaniaGold in Waihi will be on strike again this weekend, as the company continues to refuse a fair deal for the workers.

On Monday, workers at OceanaGold’s underground mine at Waihi voted unanimously for a second 48-hour strike, beginning at 7.15pm on Saturday, which will go ahead now that the company has refused to improve their offer in negotiations today.

The members had rejected a low-ball offer of 2.2 percent during earlier pay talks.

E tū organiser Myles Leeson says that while the workers are keen on resolving the issues, they will remain staunch as they fight for what they deserve.

“We’re hoping for a resolution to this dispute, and that means a realistic pay rise,” Myles says.

“The offer of 2.2 percent is well below what the company can afford, and what the workers are worth.

“The workers know they aren’t getting what they deserve, and they are very committed to continued industrial action while the pay offer remains so poor. Support for this second action has been rock solid.”

Myles says that the workers deserve their earned share of the record profits the company has enjoyed this year.

ENDS

For more info or comment:
Myles Leeson, 027 536 2690

 

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.

Strike! Taharoa workers have had enough

E tū union members at Taharoa Ironsands mine have issued a strike notice today, as the company continues to refuse a fair deal for the workers.

The industrial action will take effect from just after midnight on 24 August, and involves a complete ban on loading the iron slurry onto ships, meaning it will remain onshore until further notice.

E tū organiser Joe Gallagher says the strike is in response to the completely unreasonable approach to wage talks taken by the company, with new boss Wayne Coffey calling the shots.

“The company, under the guidance of Wayne Coffey, is determined to reduce terms and conditions for current employees and to strip away long-standing rights and entitlements for future workers,” says Joe.

“Ever since Mr Coffey took over, the Taharoa community has been bullied and side-lined. The workers have had enough of the company’s refusal to treat them fairly,” he says.

Joe says the mining operations have been vital to the welfare of the remote Taharoa community, which has been a shining example of a self-sustaining community.

“Local groups and leaders banded together to establish a local employment policy that, on the whole, has functioned well until this point.

“Now workers, their families, and the wider community are deeply concerned that Mr Coffey has no regard for the local people nor the generations that will come after them.”

Joe says that high union density onsite and strong local support has encouraged Taharoa workers to stand up to the company and protect their way of life.

“The workers won’t back down,” says Joe.

“They’re highly skilled, highly organised, and know that they deserve the respect that Taharoa Ironsands Ltd won’t give them. Every single member voted in favour of taking this action.

“The message from the community is simple. They won’t let their terms and conditions go backwards. They will stand up together, not just for themselves, but for their colleagues and family that come after them.

“Mr Coffey seems to be saying it’s his way, or the highway. Well, the community that lives and works together will be standing tall together to show him that we see things differently.”

ENDS

For more information, contact:

Joe Gallagher E tū Industry Coordinator ph. 027 591 0015

E tū awaits detail on migrant workers initiative

The construction union, E tū says it is awaiting the detail of plans to expedite the employment by local building firms, of skilled construction workers from overseas.

The Government says the plan will favour firms with good work practices and a commitment to hiring local workers. There will also be specific rules for labour hire firms to gain accreditation to bring in foreign workers, in a bid to prevent exploitation.

E tū’s Construction Industry Coordinator, Ron Angel says there is no mention of any requirement for firms to take on apprentices and to train local workers.

“They talk about firms needing a commitment to employ Kiwis as well as good work practices, but what does that mean?

“Right now, with some of the accredited schemes, there is already a training requirement, so they say, ‘Oh right, let’s do a Site Safe training course.’ Well, that’s not training,” says Ron.

“We want a requirement to take on apprentices. It must be absolute – not a commitment. For example, if you bring in ten migrant workers, you need to take on one apprentice.

“In the Christchurch rebuild, so many firm didn’t employ Kiwis – they just went overseas to find people. It was hopeless.”

Ron says the union also wants to know how labour hire firms will be constrained from exploiting migrant workers.

“What are the specific rules for giving these firms accreditation? In my view, there should be easy access to unions, as well as wage and time records to ensure migrant workers are paid correctly.”

Ron says a fast-track dispute process is also needed.

“When migrant workers have a problem, they are often afraid their visa will be revoked if they try to address it. They need better protection and options for where they can go,” he says.

ENDS

For further information, contact:

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