Author: E tū

Packaging workers prepare for second joint mass strike

Packaging workers from different companies are joining collective forces again to send a strong message to their employers to offer them a decent wage increase.

On Friday morning, some 200 workers from Visy Board, Charta Packaging, and Opal Kiwi Packaging are striking again, with a picket outside Opal’s company premises in South Auckland.

The workers produce cardboard boxes that many popular items such as food, beverages, and homecare products are packaged in.

Members’ ask remains consistent: a pay increase to cover their rising living costs, as many work between 60-70 hours per week to get by.

Visy Board and Charta Packaging members also want to see their overtime rates kick in after 40 hours, rather than 50 hours as is currently the case.

E tū Visy Board Delegate Manu Filimoekava says there has been no change in the company’s offer after the workers’ first joint picket on Monday, and members are getting upset.

“They need to give us an answer. The situation hasn’t changed,” he says.

Manu says members are prepared to strike until the company comes back with an acceptable offer.

E tū Team Leader Amy Hansen says members at the companies are fighting hard for change.

“Members need to see movement on decent pay and conditions to improve their lives and those of their families.

“For Visy and Charta members, they also need to see overtime paid from 40 hours to be fairly compensated for their work.

“A pay increase, combined with overtime rates that kick in earlier, will mean these workers will be able to participate more in their family and community lives without having to worry about how to pay next week’s rent.”

E tū Visy Board (Wiri), Charta Packaging, and Opal Kiwi Packaging members will strike and picket on Friday 9 September outside Opal Kiwi Packaging premises.

WHEN: Friday 9 September
WHERE: 239 Cavendish Drive, Papatoetoe, Auckland
TIME: 7am-12pm

ENDS

For more information and comment:
Amy Hansen, 022 183 1339
(Visy Board Wiri and Charta Packaging)
Alvy Tata, 027 594 1900 (Opal Kiwi Packaging)

Packaging workers come together for decent pay strike

Workers in the packaging industry are banding together to send a strong message to their employers to come to the table with a decent wage increase.

Around 200 workers from Visy Board, Charta Packaging and Opal Kiwi Packaging will be striking on Monday morning, with a picket outside Visy’s company premises in Wiri.

Members are asking for a decent pay rise to help combat inflation, as many work between 60 and 70 hours per week to simply to survive.

Visy Board and Charta Packaging members also want to see overtime rates kick in after 40 hours, rather than 50 hours as is the case now.

E tū Visy Board Delegate Manu Filimoekava says members are getting more frustrated and upset as time goes on, with many having been at the company for as long as 10 to 25 years.

“At the end of the day, they’re asking the company to give us a fair pay increase. We need to meet the rising cost of living,” he says.

“Straight away, the company also declined our request to have overtime rates start at 40 hours per week.”

An E tū Delegate from Opal Kiwi Packaging says members are all standing for the same thing.

“We all believe in good wages, good results, good terms and conditions – and that’s what we’re fighting for. We need to stand up for our rights.”

E tū Team Leader Amy Hansen says members still can’t accept Visy’s current offer.

“The cost of living is huge and any offer less than that is going backwards.

“Members need to be able to spend time with their families, which is only possible if they are paid more so they don’t have to work as many hours to survive financially,” she says.

“The company also hasn’t moved on its overtime conditions, with overtime pay still only starting once workers have done more than 50 hours per week, which is unacceptable to members.”

Amy says that, like Opal, Visy and Charta Packaging are also major players in the packaging industry, which sets a standard for pay and conditions across the sector.

“This is why members are fighting for decent pay and conditions that will change their lives for the better.”

E tū Visy Board (Wiri) and Charta Packaging members will strike and picket on Monday 5 September outside Visy premises, supported by members from Opal Kiwi Packaging.

WHEN: Monday 5 September
WHERE: 235 Roscommon Road, Wiri, Auckland
TIME: 7am-12pm

ENDS

For more information and comment:
Amy Hansen, 022 183 1339
(Visy Board Wiri and Charta Packaging)
Alvy Tata, 027 594 1900 (Opal Kiwi Packaging)

More packaging workers take strike action to see move to decent pay

Members at another major paper packaging manufacturer are taking strike action to win decent wages with no clawbacks.

Up to 90 members at Opal Kiwi Packaging in Auckland are striking and picketing on Friday to move wage negotiations along in their latest round of bargaining for a new collective agreement.

Members have also been on an overtime ban since the beginning of August, which is significant, considering many do regular overtime and rely on it to make ends meet.

Around 80 other members at sites in Hastings and Christchurch are supporting their Auckland-based colleagues by also doing their own overtime bans.

An E tū Delegate at Opal in Auckland says many workers are doing 60 to 70 hours per week to get by.

“It just goes to show that working that many hours every week, obviously wages are not high enough. If the hourly rate was reasonable, we wouldn’t be working those hours.

“That’s why we are standing together. It’s about having a good income to take home to our families, to enjoy a bit of life, rather than just filling our cupboards and our freezers,” they say.

“We need a fair increase that accommodates everybody’s everyday expenses in life, in a way that they can provide for their families without struggling all the time.”

E tū Organiser Alvy Tata says members want a decent pay increase that keeps up with the cost of living.

“Workers shouldn’t be reliant on working overtime to get by. The company has offered less than CPI, which is a wage cut in real terms.

“It has also said that if members want more pay, they need to effectively fund it themselves by pushing up the threshold for overtime rates.”

Alvy says members have been working long overtime hours for more than a decade.

“That’s really what the issue is – workers need to do overtime just to cover their living costs,” she says.

“Our members want a decent pay increase with no clawbacks, and they will keep fighting until they get it.”

Opal members will be striking and picketing outside their company premises on Friday morning.

WHEN: Friday 2 September
WHERE: 239 Cavendish Drive, Papatoetoe, Auckland
TIME: 7am-12pm

ENDS

For more information and comment:
Alvy Tata, 027 594 1900

Living Wage increase big part of the decent work picture

E tū welcomes the Living Wage rising to $23.65 per hour, the new rate for 2022/23.

From Thursday 1 September, all accredited Living Wage Employers are required to pay their workers – directly employed or contracted – a minimum of $23.65 per hour.

E tū member and cleaner at Auckland Council, Josephine Wiredu, says the Living Wage has made a massive difference for her.

“It has stopped me from working long hours – no more weekend jobs, no more stress and fatigue. I am able to look after my wellbeing and spend more quality time with family, especially my two young daughters.”

Josephine says it also means the family is able to go out “once in a while” and to start saving.  

However, the Living Wage is just the first step. Fair Pay Agreements will also help to improve conditions for workers like Josephine, in the cleaning sector.

“It will stop the race to the bottom and get the rest of the cleaners all over New Zealand to be on the Living Wage like me. It will also mean better health and safety for us cleaners,” she says.

“Upskilling and training is very important for us to get better lives, and we are also doing this for the next generation of workers.”

E tū Transformational Campaigns Director, Mat Danaher, says that decent wages are a huge part of winning truly decent work.

“There’s no question that wages are one of the chief concerns for people when they think about the need to improve things at work,” Mat says.

“Paying at least the Living Wage is one huge part of the picture. However, it’s not the whole story. Workers also need proper health and safety, access to training and career progression, job security, real input into decision making at work, and more.

“That’s why E tū is a strong supporter of Fair Pay Agreements – it’s about looking at wages and conditions across the board and making sure that workers are getting a fair go in all parts of their employment agreements.”

ENDS

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

Support worker wellbeing report exposes huge psychosocial impacts during pandemic

A report into the wellbeing of home support workers during the Covid-19 pandemic calls for urgent measures to address workers’ concerns.

On Wednesday, researchers from AUT led by Associate Professor Katherine Ravenswood and union representatives from E tū and PSA, who collaborated on the report, will meet with Minister of Health, Andrew Little, to seek commitments to take crucial action on its recommendations.

The Wellbeing of Community Support Workers During the Covid-19 Pandemic is unique in that the research was conducted not only by the AUT researchers but also by home support workers themselves, who were trained to interview their peers.

The research, funded by the Health Research Council, reveals the huge psychosocial and physical impacts on workers, due to their isolation, marginalisation, insecure working conditions, financial stress, and poor communication from employers.

“Most people think all we do is make cups of tea and do housework. But I am showering my clients, changing dressings – things that require me to be very up close and personal,” one support worker says.

“Yet we had no masks, no gloves, or aprons. In those early days I spent a lot of time crying in my car.”

Many workers said they felt a sense of insecurity about their work hours, if they could continue to work, and whether they would retain their incomes.

“I was in one of the vulnerable groups, and we didn’t know whether to continue work or to stay home or whether I will be financially supported or not.”

E tū Director Kirsty McCully says decades of systemic undervaluation of this mostly-women workforce has had a profound effect on their individual and collective wellbeing.

“The reflections in the report are honest and cut to the heart. There is no mistaking the stresses these low-paid women workers felt, or the brave actions they took to protect vulnerable clients.”

PSA Assistant Secretary Melissa Woolley says the research shows, where they could, workers consistently went the extra mile to make sure clients were protected and gaps in care were filled.

“There are lessons not only about the Covid-19 pandemic, but about how this group of workers has ended up so forgotten and unrecognised despite the enormous importance of their work, and about what can be done to change this.”  

The report’s recommendations include upholding Te Tiriti o Waitangi principles, introducing wellbeing centred employment practices to reduce issues like isolation and financial insecurity, recognising workers’ contribution and expertise, and developing a well-resourced sector to sustainably deliver care and support services. 

The report will be delivered to Parliament on Tuesday 30 August and presented to the Minister of Health on Wednesday 31 August.

“Struggling” Airbus engineers stand tall for better pay to protect industry

Aircraft engineers who work for Airbus, servicing New Zealand military aircraft, are continuing their strike action in an effort to secure decent wages now and for future aircraft workers.

More than 100 engineers working for the company out of Woodbourne in Marlborough and Ohakea in the Manawatū have been on strike for around six weeks, and last week filed notices for another two-week strike period.

Members’ ask is simple: a pay rise to keep up with inflation.

Their strike has meant not travelling to other work sites away from Woodbourne and Ohakea, no shift work, overtime, or doing work that’s outside their job description or that changes their current work patterns.

Alongside servicing civilian aircraft, the bulk of the work Airbus engineers do is for the country’s air and defence forces.

An E tū member, who does not wish to be named, says members feel their wages are falling behind with the rising cost of living, with many of the company’s engineers struggling to get by on what they earn.

“A lot of younger people with mortgages are really starting to hurt, on top of groceries, power, and other things. The pay rise we’re asking for is just so that we can afford to live.”

The strike action is also about addressing the attrition in the industry – where it was once seen as being highly skilled and highly paid, new workers are not coming into replace those who are retiring, they say.

“A lot of these guys are highly skilled with years of training and experience, and they not being valued.

“Airbus doesn’t seem to worry as they leave, but there’s not an endless supply of aircraft engineers. So, while this strike is about being able to afford to pay the bills, it’s also about retaining and attracting future workers.”

Their pay also needs to take into account the huge level of responsibility and stress that goes with the job, they say.

“There’s enormous pressure on you to ensure everything is done absolutely right, every time – to the point you could end up in court, or people may die as a result of mistakes.”

Another E tū member, also anonymous, says they’ve heard of members who are working second jobs to get by, and their partners as well.

“The guys with families are facing horrendous expenses, and those on single incomes are struggling too. I know of one who is having to sell off assets to make ends meet.

“The main thing that’s really driven this strike action is the company’s blatant disregard for its workers. It talks about people being its greatest asset, yet it’s not willing to reduce profit returns to shareholders to fund a pay increase, while its workers struggle.”

E tū Aviation Organiser Damon Rongotaua says New Zealand needs to recognise the value of its aircraft technicians and pay them accordingly if it wants to maintain a viable aviation industry.

“The engineers at Airbus are a vital part of our national defence and civil aviation infrastructure, as well as part of the Marlborough economy.

Depending on the type of maintenance work they are doing, engineers at Airbus can be paid significantly less per hour than engineers at other aviation companies doing the same type of work, Damon says.

“Members are driven and determined to improve pay for workers both now and in the future. From Aotearoa, they are leading the charge in terms of taking industrial action against Airbus.”

ENDS

For more information and comment:
Damon Rongotaua, 027 591 0010

First strike in 25 years for packaging workers fighting for decent pay

More than 100 workers from two Auckland packaging companies are taking strike action to secure a decent pay rise and fair compensation for overtime.

E tū members from Visy Board New Zealand in Wiri and Charta Packaging – both owned by the Visy – are wanting to see at least a 10% increase on their regular pay in a one-year deal.

Members, whose usual work hours are 50 hours a week and with most working over this amount, also want to see overtime payments start before clocking the 50-hour mark.

E tū Delegate Reaaz Ali, who has been at Visy Board for more than 15 years and works six days a week on a 12-hour shift, says Visy workers want to see be treated fairly and with respect.

“Members want fairness from this big, multi-million-dollar company and to be acknowledged and respected for their work. We spend 90% of our time working – especially those of us on night shift, we hardly spend time with our families.

“We have kids, and we don’t see them – only in the mornings before they leave for school or at weekends,” he says.

“We don’t want to be doing these long hours, but if we don’t then we will struggle. We feel we don’t have a choice, and it’s killing our health as well.”

Another E tū Delegate, Manu Filimoekava, has been at Visy Board for 25 years and says it’s the first time workers at the company have taken strike action in that time.

“We are doing long hours to survive. I work around 64 hours up to 70 hours a week. We’ve got no time with family, no time with friends, no happy hour. It’s no life.”

E tū Organiser for Visy Board and Charta members, Ines Mitgutsch, says workers at the company are getting a poor deal in comparison to those who work for competitors.

“From my perspective, workers at Visy work some of the longest hours per week in the packaging industry.

“When overtime pay doesn’t kick in after 40 hours and there aren’t many allowances, it all adds up to conditions our members are now determined to improve.

“If they had higher base pay and received overtime for time worked above 40 hours, this would make a huge difference,” she says.

“The company needs to pay its workers fairly and come to the table with a decent offer.”

E tū members from Visy Board Wiri and Charta Packaging will be striking for 24 hours from 3.30am on Wednesday 24 August.

There will be a picket on Wednesday 24 August outside Visy Board, 235 Roscommon Rd, Wiri, Auckland from 5am-11am.

ENDS

For more information and comment:
Ines Mitgutsch, 021 348 265

‘Just Transition’ plan in place as NZ Post closes mail processing centre

Members at a New Zealand Post mail processing centre will have nine months to prepare to transition into other work after the company announced the centre will be shutting for good next year.

More than 20 E tū members working at NZ Post’s mail processing centre in Manawatū will lose their jobs when it closes its doors in March 2023.

Members have signed a ‘Just Transition’ agreement with the company, which means they’ll have access to a range of support to assist them in finding other employment, redeploying, or upskilling.

Long-time delegate and worker Michelle Wallace says in the face of declining mail volume workers had known “the writing was on the wall” for a while, but the news is still a shock.

“There are a lot of long-serving members – some have been with Post since they were fresh out of high school.”

Michelle says while the details of the Just Transition process still need to be worked through, having a plan in place is very important to coach members through the change.

“Otherwise, people would be quite lost and distraught, but at least they’ve got options for support.”

E tū negotiation specialist Joe Gallagher says it’s a tough time for the members, with declining mail volume, the rise of online shopping due to the pandemic, and automation all taking a toll and weighing into New Zealand Post’s decision to close the centre.

“We’re living in challenging times. Mail continues to decline at around 22 percent per year, and as a result, New Zealand Post has continued to reposition itself as a logistics business,” he says.

“With all these factors, it’s important that Just Transition processes are put in place that allow members to shift into other industries or into retirement if they prefer, with dignity and respect.”

While the company received $130 million as part of the Government’s Budget in 2020 to maintain and develop future services, Joe says it’s essential to continue to fund Just Transition processes for workers.

“As the economy changes with technology and climate change, we need Just Transition processes that give both businesses and workers the opportunity to move into other lines of trade and work with minimal disruption.

“We believe this will require long-term funding options and that Government involvement is essential.

“Creating and maintaining Decent Work for everyone and supporting those workers at the forefront of change is key to building communities with greater wellbeing.”

ENDS

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

South Island timber workers strike for decent living wages

Workers at a large Nelson timber processing plant made the snap decision to strike today to fight for decent pay that is locally competitive and will attract and retain staff at the sawmill.

Around 60 E tū and FIRST Union members at South Pine in Nelson are striking in their bid to secure a decent pay rise for the next 12 months.

E- tū and FIRST Union say the company’s current offer is unacceptable in the face of extraordinarily high living costs and wage rates offered by other companies in the industry.

“Over the last three years, workers’ wages have lost significant ground against other local employers and have not kept up with the pace of inflation,” said Paul Watson, FIRST Union Southern Region Secretary.

“With inflation now running at 7.3 %, members need to see wages paid at a significantly higher level than the 6.25% offered by the employer over the next 12 months.”

E tū Organiser Garth Elliot said that many workers and experienced trades staff had left the firm to take up higher paid jobs.

“The company itself has admitted it is struggling to hire new staff,” said Mr Elliot.

“Start rates should be at least at the new Living Wage, and we need pay parity for trades staff such as fitters, engineers and saw doctors in order to be more competitive with comparable roles at other timber processing companies.”

A union member who wished to remain anonymous said that they didn’t feel like their loyalty to the company had been recognised.

“The market is booming. The company needs to pay workers a wage that reflects their skills and dedication,” they said.

“There are some people who have been at the company for up to 20 years and barely earn above minimum wage. The current offer shows no respect, particularly for long-serving members.”

“It’s a last resort to go on strike,” said another union member. “People are feeling very frustrated – we feel like we’ve been given the run around.”

“We’re the busiest we’ve ever been, and the company has done very well over the last three years. We’re working hard to meet market demand but we’re not getting recognised for it.”

South Pine members are currently striking and picketing from 11am on Monday 25th July outside their company premises at 67 Quarantine Rd, Nelson.

ENDS

For more information and comment:
Garth Elliot (E tū Organiser), 027 590 0084

Paul Watson (FIRST Union Southern Regional Secretary) 021 618 395