Author: E tū

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

 

Workers come forward to Chorus inquiry

E tū says more workers are coming forward to report labour abuses to the Labour Inspectorate lead investigation into Chorus contractors and subcontractors working on the ultrafast broadband network.

The investigation began just before Christmas, following reports of exploitative practices by Chorus subcontractors in Nelson where people worked for free, as so-called volunteers.

E tū’s Industry Coordinator Communications, Joe Gallagher says the union is working closely with the Labour Inspectorate, and a number of workers have been interviewed.

“We’ve been very encouraged by the number of people coming forward. We are working with them, ensuring they have contact with the Inspectorate to get this information into the investigation,” says Joe.

He cites reports from workers, including many migrants, which reveal a litany of illegal work practices.

They include illegal pay deductions, underpayment of wages or no payment for so-called ‘volunteers’, as well as health and safety breaches, no annual leave and sick leave, and inadequate equipment.

For many, the work is a way to meet immigration requirements for work permits and residency, but Joe says that’s left people vulnerable to exploitation.

“We saw the early cases come through in Nelson, but in Auckland alone there are 900 subcontractors to Chorus contractors, Visionstream and UCG. The potential scale of the problem is huge,” he says.

ENDS

For more information, contact:

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

 

Malaysian labour scam industry wake-up call

E tū is urging the construction industry to get its house in order after revelations of a scam involving undocumented Malaysian construction workers.

Union Industry Coordinator, Ron Angel says the scam is symptomatic of how easy it is to lose control these days of just who is working on building sites.

“People are calling this third-tier subcontracting but actually, these are fourth-tier subcontractors and the situation is out of control.

“Construction firms have come to rely on them due to labour shortages, but they are a risk. Hundreds of these workers were here undocumented, with no monitoring of their pay and conditions, and probably no labour protection of any sort,” says Ron.

“This rort is a wake-up call for contractors and project managers to monitor their sites and their workforce properly. This industry needs to get its house in order.”

Ron says the situation strengthens the case for directly employing workers as well as providing standardised wages and training.

“If it applies to everyone, then there’s a level playing fields,” he says.

Ron says there are also obvious concerns about the exploitation by unscrupulous agents of visitor visa arrangements with Malaysia.

“You would have to worry that so many people could evade basic security checks by slipping into the country in this way, including using false names.”

ENDS

For more information, contact:

Ron Angel E tū Industry Coordinator Engineering and Infrastructure ph. 027 591 0055

Workers gutted as ABCorp confirms closure

E tū is extremely disappointed with the confirmation today that the plastic card manufacturer, ABCorp is to close its Christchurch plant.

About 50 workers will lose their jobs after the company confirmed it was moving operations at the plant to Australia.

“We’re gutted about this,” says Joe Gallagher, E tū’s Industry Coordinator, Communications.

“The workers knew what was coming but that doesn’t make it any easier. These are good jobs with reasonable pay and conditions and that’s hard to find these days,” says Joe.

Joe says the union will be doing all it can to support the workers ahead of closure, which is scheduled for the end of March.

ABCorp Christchurch is one of several local firms to shut its doors and relocate across the Tasman, including Cadbury and Auckland company, Pastry House.

“These companies come over here, they create expectations for the people working for them, but there’s no loyalty. They lose a major contract or two, as happened here and just decide to move on,” Joe says.

However, he has reiterated the union’s view that the Government can help support local specialist firms through its procurement processes.

“ABCorp lost a major Government transport contract and several others.  This Government is committed to local workers and their families. We think that includes helping support local businesses producing quality products through Government procurement contracts where appropriate.”

ENDS

For more information, contact:
Joe Gallagher E tū Industry Coordinator Communications ph. 027 591 0015

 

Scale of Fletcher debacle “gobsmacking”

The construction union, E tū says it is working to clarify the effect of Fletcher Building and Interiors’ huge loss on its members at Fletchers as well as the wider industry.

“We’re still coming to terms with the fact that the country’s biggest building company is no longer bidding for new commercial projects which is just extraordinary,” says Ron Angel, E tū’s Industry Coordinator, Engineering and Infrastructure.

“We’re trying to confirm the facts of what happens next, but we will have members affected by this though it’s unclear yet how many,” he says.

Ron says union organisers had this morning visited Fletcher sites in Christchurch office, where members had been told to expect closure once work is finished on company projects including the city’s Justice and Emergency Services Precinct.

“In the immediate term, we’ll be looking to protect our members’ interests and we hope if there are redundancies that our members can be redeployed in other Fletcher divisions. Some will be entitled to redundancy pay; others won’t.”

Ron says the union had also spoken with members about the factors behind the near-$1 billion loss.

“In part, this is a result of too many people in head office doing the paperwork and pushing up overheads, and too few people on the ground doing the work,” says Ron.

He says a lack of experience in project management also meant a lot of mistakes especially on the Justice precinct project.

“Our members have told us that 50 percent of that project was built twice.

“The guys say they’d put stuff up and a week later they’d be pulling it down again because the design changed or there were design faults, cracked tiles and the like. And there was too little supervision, with no one taking responsibility for the quality of the work.”

Poor cost control had also been flagged by the division’s retiring Chair, Sir Ralph Norris.

Ron says the loss is “a salutary indictment of the sub-contracting model which is killing the construction industry in New Zealand.

“It means Fletchers has been unable to control costs and quality on these big projects and the result is just gobsmacking.”

ENDS

For more information, contact:

Ron Angel E tū Industry Coordinator, Engineering and Infrastructure ph. 027 591 0055

 

 

Equal pay deal for mental health support workers

The Council of Trade Unions, the Public Service Association and E tū welcome the Government’s commitment to equal pay for mental health and addiction support workers.

Health Minister Dr David Clark says his ministry will now begin formal negotiations with unions, providers and District Health Boards.

An estimated 3800 working people were excluded from last year’s care and support settlement after the National government refused to include them in negotiations.

“This is good news for working people who were left out of last year’s landmark care and support settlement,” CTU President Richard Wagstaff says.

“When government, ministries and unions work together, great outcomes can be achieved – and we look forward to fruitful negotiations.”

Unions expect these negotiations to occur with urgency, to extend the full terms of the care and support settlement to people working in mental health and addiction support.

“Our members in mental health and addiction support will be encouraged by today’s announcement,” PSA Assistant National Secretary Kerry Davies says.

“This proves to them that the work they do is valued – and so are the vulnerable people who they support every day.”

Unions say many workers in mental health and addiction support had considered moving to other types of care and support work where pay rates have increased after the settlement.

“We hope all the parties can work together to get this settlement in place for mental health and addiction support workers,” E tū Assistant National Secretary John Ryall says.

“The care and support settlement showed what a difference equal pay can make to the lives of these workers – but it’s not equal if it’s not for everyone.”

ENDS

For more information contact:

Jessica Williams | Media Advisor, PSA

Email: jessica.williams@psa.org.nz, Tel: +64 (0)4 816 5028, Mobile: +64 (0)27 600 5498

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Disappointment as JNL confirms job losses

E tū is extremely disappointed with the confirmation today that Juken New Zealand Ltd (JNL) intends axing the jobs of about 90 workers at its East Coast mill in Gisborne.

E tū represents production workers at the mill.

E tū Engineering Industry Coordinator, Ron Angel says workers were expecting the worst when the proposal was first mooted late last month, “but it’s still a bitter blow,” he says.

“This is one of Gisborne’s biggest employers and the only significant wood manufacturer in the area. Many families have relied on the mill for their livelihood, and these job losses will mean hardship for some.”

Ron says E tū and FIRST Union, which also has members on site, are doing all they can for JNL’s workers who face an uncertain future.

“We are still waiting to hear who does and doesn’t have a job. Some have chosen voluntary redundancy, but others face a two-week wait to see how goes and who stays,” he says.

Ron says both unions have been working with JNL to manage the issues arising from the  restructure and the subsequent job losses.

“That work will continue as our members await certainty over their position,” he says.

Ron says there is redundancy pay, thanks to a union-negotiated redundancy agreement and both unions were working to ensure redundant workers received help with retraining, job search and the preparation of CVs.

He says there is some hope with the recent sale of the former Prime sawmill site, also in Gisborne, to Far East Sawmills, which hopes to offer jobs to about 60 people.

“That would obviously be welcome,” says Ron.

ENDS

For further information, please contact:

Ron Angel Industry Coordinator, Engineering and Infrastructure E tū ph. 027 591 0055

Reality hits home for Cadbury workers

It will be a sad day for Dunedin as 85 permanent, full-time Cadbury confectionary workers end their employment with the company, effective Friday.

The loss of their jobs ends many years of collective contribution to an iconic Dunedin institution, and “there will be tears and sadness, as people realise it’s over,” says E tū delegate and Sub-branch Vice President, Teresa Gooch.

“Many will look back on years of camaraderie and really, the good times of working at Cadbury where workmates have been like family. Cadbury has been good to us. There is a real feeling of loss, so there will be grieving,” she says.

“It’s also hard for those of us who will still be working here – we know we’re next and we’re also feeling for our departing friends.

“Some have found jobs and gone already, but many others are very anxious.”

However, Teresa says people need to stay positive.

“I would urge people to have some faith about where they go from here. A lot of employers are keen to take on the Cadbury workers due to their committed work ethic, reliability and service to the company. These are wanted workers.

“As long as they’re active and positive there’s a good chance they’ll get a job somewhere.”

E tū Industry Coordinator Food, Phil Knight says the union remains concerned over the demise of many good quality jobs, especially in provincial centres like Dunedin.

“These have been good, permanent, full-time jobs and those aren’t always easy to find. We know some people are leaving Dunedin to get into jobs so it’s very disruptive,” he says.

ENDS

For more information, contact:

Teresa Gooch E tū delegate and Sub-branch Vice President: ph. 027 231 8119

Phil Knight E tū Industry Coordinator, Food Sector ph. 027 591 0052.

 

 

 

 

MBIE investigation pending of Chorus UFB contractors

E tū understands the employment practices of Chorus’s contractors and subcontractors will be the subject of an inquiry by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment.

This follows cases of unpaid workers on a “volunteer” scheme run by Chorus subcontractor, UCG in Nelson – which Chorus subsequently put a stop to.

A second case involved a Nelson man who was paid $12 an hour – more than 20 percent less than the minimum wage – by Chorus subcontractor, Frontier Communications.

E tū has welcomed the inquiry, saying it comes as workers for another Chorus contractor come forward.

“Our understanding is, the news of this inquiry has seriously rattled Chorus which has instructed its contractors and subcontractors to make sure their house is in order,” says Joe.

“We’re very supportive of this investigation – we’ve been seeking this for months.”

In the latest cases to emerge, migrant cablers faced multiple breaches of their employment contracts. For the first few weeks, instead of wages they only received an allowance of about $150 per week. Then, money was deducted from their pay though they weren’t told why.  They also worked up to 80 hours a week, some of it unpaid, while some weeks there was no work at all.

“Chorus has said any labour abuses involving its contractors are isolated cases,” says Joe.

“We think it’s the tip of the iceberg, but we do know Chorus has moved swiftly to issue a warning to its contractors.

“We have said before that any inquiry needs to ensure strict confidentiality for any workers prepared to speak out about what’s happening. That’s the only way to find out just how widespread this exploitation is, and to protect the jobs of these vulnerable workers,” he says.

ENDS

For more information, contact:

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

Joe can put interested reporters in touch with two workers who are prepared to speak with media on condition of anonymity.