Category: Manufacturing and food

Shock redundancy proposal at Nestlé confectionery factory

Auckland’s Nestlé workers are in shock at a restructuring proposal which would see almost 40% of their site’s union members lose their jobs, with plans to stop confectionery manufacturing at the plant altogether.

On Wednesday, Nestlé revealed its plan to make around 40 workers redundant at its Wiri site, due to several of its product lines now slated to be produced in Australia and another product line proposed to be outsourced to a third-party manufacturer.

If confirmed, the redundancies would go ahead in December.

According to the proposal, the redundancies are part of a plan to completely shut down the confectionery manufacturing arm of its Wiri site.

E tū’s National Executive Northern Region Representative Gadiel Asiata, who also works in food manufacturing, says the news is a huge shock and will likely have a ripple effect on the community.

“Nestlé is one of those companies that has supported South Auckland for a long time, and it has been the main source of income for a lot of people in that community.

“It’s really sad that it’s come to this – we’re potentially losing something that generates jobs, along with workers who have been at the company for many years.”

E tū Team Leader Jen Natoli says the blow is reminiscent of the Cadbury closure in Dunedin in 2018 and serves as a stark reminder of yet another global corporate making a decision, without proper regard for how it affects workers.

Many workers have invested many years of their lives to make the company successful, she says.

“The size of the confectionery manufacturing plant and the number of jobs it provides to South Auckland workers is significant.

“When large companies, such as Nestlé, come into the country to do business and then leave when they find a better deal elsewhere, it can devastate local communities – especially now when we need to invest in recovery and rebuilding.”

Jen says should the proposal go ahead, E tū is calling on Nestlé to do the right thing to ensure none of its workers are without jobs come Christmas.

“This means redeployment, getting members’ skills credentialed and qualified, actively working with E tū to find alternative employment, and making sure those members who find new jobs are able to exit when they need to with their full redundancy entitlements.”

Jen says in the wake of COVID-19, it’s obvious that decent work not only includes decent pay and a safe work environment, but also stability and security.

Decisions need to be made with workers at the forefront, and we will be fighting to ensure Nestlé’s workers get a fair deal.”

According to the Dun & Bradstreet Business Directory, Nestlé New Zealand has 356 employees (all locations) and generated $277.79 million (USD) in in 2019.

ENDS

For more information and comment:
Jen Natoli, 027 591 0041

Whakatāne Mill confirms closure but opportunities remain

The closure of Whakatāne Mill has been confirmed, with over 150 skilled operational workers being made redundant after 85 years of operations.

FIRST Union and E tū say that while vital the impact on the local community will be significant, there is still a chance for a new buyer to repurpose the existing plant and secure crucial infrastructure in New Zealand’s forestry supply chain.

“There are many options for refitting the existing assets to continue manufacturing pulp and paper products,” said Jared Abbott, FIRST Union Secretary for Transport, Logistics and Finance.

“We are inviting potential buyers to ask for our assistance to get the support needed to make the most of the existing skills and infrastructure available.

“There are opportunities in the industry and there is an important role for Government to play in securing the wood supply chain and increasing our manufacturing capacity.”

E tū spokesperson Raymond Wheeler says the announcement of the closure is “devastating” for local industry, including businesses such as scaffolding and engineering.

“We’ve just had the economic impact of the Whakaari (White Island) eruption and COVID-19 on Whakatāne’s tourism industry to contend with, and now the region has been dealt this blow. It’s an enormous hit to the regions and to the eastern Bay of Plenty.”

Raymond says job opportunities in the area are limited, and emphasises the urgency around the Government’s work on an Industry Transformation Plan (ITP) for the forestry and wood processing sector, if local manufacturing is to survive.

ENDS

For more information and comment:
Jared Abbott, 021 617 131

Raymond Wheeler, 027 597 5404

Government needs to progress transformation plans to save mill

E tū is calling on the Government to lend greater support to Aotearoa New Zealand’s local wood processing industry in the wake of the proposal to close Whakatāne Mill.

On Tuesday, the mill’s management presented workers with a proposal to shut the mill by the end of June. The closure would affect around 220 employees, including temporary workers.

E tū spokesperson Raymond Wheeler says the union will be supporting more than 40 more members during the consultation process.

He says the proposed closure lends some urgency to the Government’s work on an Industry Transformation Plan (ITP) for the forestry and wood processing sector, if local manufacturing is to survive.

“We need to see increased support for manufacturing in the regions, particularly in the form of government procurement for local wood products.

“These industries are also a vital part of the community’s economic wellbeing, as many local businesses such as in engineering, scaffolding, and associated industries, rely on a large operation like the Whakatāne Mill for work.”

Raymond says an ITP would enable workers to have more control over their futures by having a say in creating and maintaining decent work, while ensuring that the local manufacturing industry remains viable.

ENDS

For more information and comment:
Raymond Wheeler, 027 597 5404

Smelter extension brings certainty to Tiwai workers and community

Tiwai workers and the Southland community will now have time to plan a proper transition with the future of the Rio Tinto smelter secured for the next four years.

On January 14, it was announced that the smelter’s owner, Rio Tinto, has signed a contract with electricity provider Meridian Energy to keep the operation open until the end of 2024.

Originally, the company had proposed to close the smelter at the end of its contract in August, potentially impacting around 1000 workers and putting many local businesses and suppliers at risk.

Delegate Owen Evans says the majority of Tiwai workers are “quite happy with the decision” about the contract extension.

“For those with big mortgages and families, it’s been a relief for them. For younger ones, it removes the panic of having to search for a job immediately,” he says.

“Workers can stay at Tiwai in the interim and have the time to upskill to other roles they may want to do in future.”

The announcement is positive for many others in the community too, Owen says.

“A lot of people – for example, those in operations, suppliers, or food places – also rely on Tiwai.”

Owen says since the closure was first proposed, it’s been a struggle to attract new workers, with many leaving the company.

He says he hopes that will change thanks to the certainty the new contract provides.

Joe Gallagher, a negotiation specialist at E tū, says the news is a “win” for workers, the union and the community to enable a ‘Just Transition’.

“Four years gives everyone a lot of time to make choices about the future – whether that’s training, looking at different industries.

“Now people have a chance to put together a plan. It’s an opportunity for all parties, including the union, to put a frame around how things will look in 2024 and beyond.”

Since the proposed closure was announced last year, E tū has called on the company and the Government for a Just Transition to make sure the impact of switching to low-carbon or alternative industries doesn’t fall disproportionately on workers and their communities.

Joe says now there’s a new opportunity to set an example of a Just Transition model.

“We can make it the gold standard for what might help other communities to deal with this same question,” he says.

ENDS

For more information and comment:
Joe Gallagher, 027 591 0015

Bagel workers get organised!

Workers at hip bagel joint Best Ugly Bagels, owned by celebrity chef Al Brown, have written to the employer announcing they are E tū members and want to negotiate a collective agreement.

Best Ugly Bagels employs around 90 staff across six outlets in Auckland and Wellington, and provides bagels to cafes and restaurants across the country.

Around half the Auckland-based workers are signed up to the union already, and they are taking their union message to their Best Ugly Bagel colleagues around the country.

Best Ugly Bagel worker and delegate Thomas Carlyle knows that being in the union will improve things at work.

“My friends and I really like working at Best Ugly Bagels – it’s a good working environment,” Thomas says.

“A bunch of us were chatting and felt that by getting together in the union, we could work with senior management to make it an even better place to work.”

Fellow worker and delegate Ines Mitgutsch agrees: “For us, sticking together with our workmates makes us feel more confident when we challenge things that don’t seem right.”

E tū organiser Mat Danaher says there are many issues in the hospitality industry that unions can help to fix.

“In general, the hospitality industry is plagued by low pay, long hours, and exploitation of thousands of workers,” Mat says.

“Just like any industry, hospitality workers organising collectively in their union will help them to secure their basic rights, and give them a platform to win the things that will really improve their work conditions, such as the Living Wage and Fair Pay Agreements.

“We’re looking forward to building a constructive relationship with Best Ugly Bagels and helping them to become leaders as responsible employers in the hospitality space, hopefully leading the way for improvements in the wider hospitality industry as well.”

ENDS

For more information and comment:
Mat Danaher, 021 336 519

Temperzone workers to picket on Monday

E tū and FIRST Union members at Auckland air conditioning and ventilation manufacturing plant Temperzone, are set to picket near the premises on Monday.

Many workers had to use up their leave or take leave in advance during the lockdown, and they now face selection scores for possible redundancy.

At the picket, members and their families will hand out flyers to the public to explain how they’ve been treated by the company during COVID-19 alerts.

It is also expected to be the first physically distanced community picket in the country.

E tū delegate Pena Tamamasui says workers are picketing because they’ve “had enough of being disrespected at work”.

“The company used our leave and only applied for the subsidy a week ago, after they proposed to cut up to 85 of our jobs.”

Last week, workers received letters confirming their selection scores for redundancy, and they feel Temperzone is not listening to their feedback or engaging in good faith.

“Our community and the public needs to know how we’ve been treated and that it’s not on. We all need to do our bit so New Zealand recovers, and our community needs to know Temperzone isn’t,” Pena says.

E tū is calling for New Zealand to rebuild better as a nation, and that means keeping New Zealand manufacturing jobs for our communities.

Rebuilding better also means workers’ wages leading our recovery, E tū Team Leader Jen Natoli says.

“Everyone should get 100% of their normal pay – instead of seeing their leave used and weekly income reduced to the point of wondering how they will put food on the table for their families,” Jen says.

“By putting money in people’s pockets, we make sure that goods and services are kept in demand in all our local communities, keeping businesses thriving – that’s how our economy will recover.”

Workers will picket in non-work time, still working their hours as expected.

ENDS

For more info or comment:
Jen Natoli, 027 591 0041

For details about the picket:

Blue Rika, 027 204 6339

Members will be picketing from 6am-8am on the corner of Massey Rd and Tidal Rd in Mangere.

Tempers rise at Temperzone

E tū members at Temperzone say they have been let down by their employer, citing a lack of good faith and basic respect.

Temperzone, a company that manufactures and distributes air conditioning and ventilation systems in Auckland, had forced many workers to use up all of their leave and take leave in advance.

The company also chose not to apply for the wage subsidy, meaning that workers weren’t necessarily given the 80% of their normal earnings while off work.

E tū member Simi Lo says the company’s behaviour is taking a huge toll on him and his family.

“The uncertainty, the lack of good faith, and the apparent lack of concern for us workers have been a huge stress on our family, causing a lot of heartache and sleepless nights,” Simi says.

“Advanced leave has been my only option – I had a family holiday over Christmas, so I either had to take advance leave or have no income at all. How would I have been able to pay the bills and feed my family?”

Many other Temperzone workers are in a similar situation, which will create many issues in the near future, Simi says.

“Some people don’t have enough annual leave or sick leave throughout the year, it’s only April and they’re expecting us to use up all our leave, but what happens if we have important family matters that we need to attend some times throughout the year? How are we going to apply for a day off if we run out of leave by then, and what happen if we get sick? Does that mean we still come to work if we’re sick?”

Pena Tamamasui, head site delegate at Temperzone, says that workers aren’t feeling respected.

“Union members at Temperzone feel betrayed,” Pena says.

“These are smart, skilled workers who have been loyal to their company and have reached out to partner with the company to get through this. This crisis is not the time for top-down decision making. Our members simply want transparency and fair consultation, keeping our people at the heart of any response.” 

E tū organiser Jen Natoli says that the company’s decision to leave workers out in the cold is a worrying sign, especially with possible redundancies on the cards.

“Temperzone have put out a proposal to axe up to 65 jobs at the site, which is already stressful enough for our members,” Jen says.

E tū members reported late Monday they had received letters with their selection criteria score but at the time of this release neither E tū nor FIRST unions had heard officially from the company.

“Now is the time for us as a country to pull together so that NZ owned and operated manufacturing companies scale up and become the backbone of a decent recovery.  Now is the time to rebuild better, and that means keeping Kiwi businesses alive. Cutting jobs now will do the opposite.  We call on the company to work through alternatives with us and the government to support our crucial manufacturing sector.

“This company manufactures products that help make homes healthy in a time when we have a housing shortage. There is a huge place for manufacturers like Temperzone as we rebuild, not only for our homes but also for providing decent jobs for our communities at a time when our economy needs to restart.”

ENDS

For more info or comment:
Jen Natoli, 027 591 0041

NZ Steel plant closure a blow for the Waiuku community

NZ Steel’s Pipe and Hollows Plant has told workers that they are undertaking a restructure which could see the end of their jobs at the plant for most workers.

The 60 workers affected would have to be redeployed elsewhere, or face having no job at all.

Delegate Lance Gush, a NZ Steel worker for 14 years, says this would be a blow to their families and the wider the Waiuku community.

“On Tuesday, even under the new Level 3 restrictions, the team embraced returning to work. We were happy to get back to some normality for ourselves and our families.

“We’re a team of 60 with people from five months to forty five years of experience at the plant. We were glad to be back this week, doing work we’re proud of, with assurance from management to push forward.

“By Thursday afternoon, we were confronted with a proposal that shook all of that completely.”

Lance is concerned about the impact the restructure will have on a community already bearing the brunt of the COVID-19 crisis.

“I have workmates with young families, who have already experienced the job loss of one parent. Now with this announcement, they’ve found both Mum and Dad’s employment balancing on a knife edge.”

Lance says that retaining their jobs isn’t just about the workers and their families but also the future of the New Zealand economy.

“There is an opportunity for the Government to invest in the future of our country and stimulate our economy by supporting and utilising our domestic products, resources and workforce.”

E tū Negotiation Specialist Joe Gallagher says there’s much more that we should be doing to support NZ steel and the wider manufacturing industry.

“From pit to port, it’s time to support local steel production,” Joe says.

“We need to be creating a level playing field so that New Zealand isn’t constantly undercut by cheap steel imports.

“We know the long and often distressing history of manufacturing here. Let’s beginning turning it all around.”

Joe says that the Government should take this opportunity to fix the problems in manufacturing, as part of rebuilding better after COVID-19.

“E tū has just launched a new campaign, Rebuild Better, outlining the way forward for New Zealand during and after the global pandemic.

“One of our key principles is the need to keep and create decent jobs. These workers at NZ Steel love their jobs, and they should really be protected by our industry planning.

“We will rebuild better, and we’ll rebuild with New Zealand made steel.”

ENDS

For more information or comment:
Joe Gallagher, 027 591 0015

Victory! Sistema workers off on full pay

E tū members at Sistema have secured a huge victory, with all production workers off work on full pay for the next four weeks.

Sistema claims to be an essential service and had originally told workers they would be working through the Alert Level 4 shutdown period.

The members were not satisfied with the lax approach to health and safety, so they left the building and refused to do anymore work on Wednesday, until they could be sure it was safe.

After a WorkSafe visit today, the company has now told workers that they will not have to report to work and will be on full pay for the next four weeks.

E tū member and production worker at Sistema, Ilisapesi Talanoa, has a lot of gratitude for her colleagues.

“A big thank you to union and non-union members for standing up for what’s right. You’ve stood up to protect yourself and your family,” she says.

“I’m so proud that everyone came together to fight for our health and safety. Our first priority is our people.”

Ilisapesi also has a message for all Kiwis: “Be safe, be kind, and much love.”

E tū organiser Mat Danaher says that this result wouldn’t have happened without the members taking matters into their own hands.

“Let’s make no mistake, this is a direct result of workers coming together to defend the safety of themselves, their family, and their community,” Mat says.

“Many Kiwis will remember the struggles that Sistema workers have been through. They’ve learnt that they have real power over their work lives when they stand up for each other.”

Mat says that the classification of essential services is quickly becoming a massive concern as the New Zealand workforce deals with the COVID-19 impacts and restrictions.

“There are two main issues. The first is the risk of employers dubiously claiming that they are an essential service because they are somewhere along the supply chain for actual essential services. We will need a lot more clarity around this in the coming days.

“The second issue is that those who actually qualify as essential services are often completely unprepared for working safely, such as by providing PPE and giving workers enough physical distance from each other.

“Both issues mean that unions and Government need to ensure WorkSafe, the Labour Inspectorate, and workers themselves are vigilant to ensure the virus can’t spread through unsafe work.

“Until then, workers around New Zealand should learn from Sistema workers’ brilliant example – to stay safe, we have to use our collective power. Every decision we make to slow the spread of the virus will save lives, and there’s nothing more important than that.”

ENDS

For more info and comment: Mat Danaher, 021 336 519
Sistema members may be available for interviews on request. Please contact Mat to arrange.