Category: Manufacturing and food

Huhtamaki job losses devastating blow

E tū says the loss of 128 jobs at the Huhtamaki factory in Henderson is a devastating blow for workers there.

Union Lead Organiser, Alvin Livingstone says E tū has 150 members at the packaging plant, who have yet to learn who will stay and who will go, with workers experiencing a range of emotions.

“This is a big hit for workers, their families and the west Auckland community. Add the fact that Christmas is looming, and this is very hard news for them,” he says.

Alvin says the company claims it remains committed to manufacturing in New Zealand, “but if these job losses go ahead, Huhtamaki will have laid off over 260 workers in the last eight years.

“The restructure is also disappointing given the company’s half yearly results show strong sales in the Europe-Asia-Oceania region. It’s profitable but obviously not enough to satisfy the company.”

Huhtamaki will now manufacture paper and plastic hot and cold cups, plastic takeaway containers, and wine dividers at its Asian factories.

“It’s just another example of a big multinational deciding to move production somewhere else, at a huge cost to local workers,” says Alvin.

He says the priority now is to explore redeployment options for affected members, as well as job opportunities with local employers for soon-to-be redundant workers.

“The redundancy process will be worked through rigorously to ensure fairness and the best outcome for affected members,” says Alvin.

ENDS.

For further information, contact:

 Alvin Livingstone E tū Lead Organiser, ph. 027549 1410

 

E tū welcomes High Court ruling on steel dumping

E tū says its support for NZ Steel’s complaint of steel-dumping by China has been vindicated by a High Court ruling directing MBIE to reinvestigate.

NZ Steel claimed Chinese producers of galvanised steel coil were heavily subsidised by the Chinese government and this negatively affected its business.

However, in a decision last year, MBIE said it found little evidence of steel dumping with the government deciding not to impose tariffs on Chinese steel makers.

NZ Steel sought a judicial review of the decision, with the High Court ordering MBIE to reconsider the complaint and quashing the government’s decision.

E tū Industry Coordinator, Joe Gallagher says it was clear at the time that MBIE’s investigation lacked rigour, and the union welcomes the High Court’s decision on the matter.

“Among the key grounds cited by NZ Steel for its judicial review was the paucity of information provided to the investigation by the Chinese government and producers – something that disturbed us at the time, so we feel vindicated by this decision,” says Joe.

“Now, not only will MBIE have to reinvestigate – it will also have to be much more rigorous in scrutinising the level of support for Chinese steel manufacturers by banks and other entities – which it failed to do first time around.”

Joe says the ruling has also upheld NZ Steel’s view that overseas investigations had found the Chinese Government had subsidised steel products, thus providing relevant evidence which MBIE wrongly discounted in its advice to the Minister.

“This is a common-sense ruling which recognises the very poor quality of MBIE’s original inquiry,” says Joe.

“We’ll be keen to see what they come back with next time, given they’ve just been given pretty clear directions on what’s expected.

“For the sake of our steel industry, it’s critical to get it right.”

ENDS

For more information, contact:

Joe Gallagher Industry Coordinator E tū ph. 027 591 0015

Strike at Pacific Steel

Members at BlueScope Pacific Steel in Auckland will strike for 24 hours on Wednesday, 15 August.

Members will walk off the job from 7am in protest over the break down in their pay talks.

An overtime ban has been in place at the Otahuhu site since Friday.

E tū Industry Coordinator, Joe Gallagher says workers voted to strike after five months of frustrating pay talks, with BlueScope refusing to make a decent pay offer – despite its huge profit, unveiled yesterday.

“BlueScope has more than doubled its net profit this year to almost AUD$1.6 billion and lifted their pay out to shareholders,” says Joe.

“The New Zealand side of the business delivered a lift in earnings of more than 80 percent – the highest return in the group. To suppress wages in the wake of this stellar result is unacceptable,” he says.

Joe says members met the company for mediation on Friday and thought they had a deal.

However, he says the company quickly withdrew its offer and members imposed the overtime ban and voted to strike.

“Our members have taken a hit in recent years – they’ve taken modest pay rises and worked with the company to cut costs to support the business. Now it’s bounced back but it isn’t prepared to share the bounty with its workers.

“Their Australian counterparts have had the same offer and are also voting on strike action. It’s clear BlueScope has taken a trans-Tasman approach to bargaining with their low-ball offer.

“These are highly skilled production and trades workers who use their hearts, heads, and hands every day to make the profits this company now enjoys. That is particularly true here in New Zealand, so the company needs to make an offer that reflects that benefit.”

ENDS

For further information, contact:

Joe Gallagher Industry Coordinator E tū ph. 027 591 0015 or

Ahlene McKee E tū Northern Region Director of Organising ph. 027 591 0065

Members will be picketing outside the mill tomorrow from 7am-11am.

Where: James Fletcher Drive, Otahuhu.

E tū demands action over AFFCO boiler

1 August 2018

MEDIA RELEASE

E tū demands action over AFFCO boiler

E tū has written to WorkSafe asking it to urgently respond to a second incident involving the boiler at AFFCO’s Moerewa meat works, which seriously injured a boilerman in an incident last month.

The man is being treated for serious burns in Middlemore Hospital.

E tū organiser, Annie Tothill says the latest incident occurred on Monday night.

“We understand coal accumulated in front of the boiler door,” says Annie.

“Usually someone would open the door to inspect the boiler. But the earlier incident meant the boilerman was hypersensitive and instead shut the boiler down.

“I have been told the problem lies with the feeders that feed the boiler with coal. This system is not alarmed so problems are undetectable until pressure reaches a dangerous level.

“This is serious, and our members fear another appalling accident,” she says.

She says AFFCO told the union the boiler has been checked by an independent professional, “but it appears the assessment failed to spot the feeder was faulty.”

Annie says there is a culture of fear at the plant and workers are too afraid to raise issues for fear of intimidation or losing their jobs.

“Our members have zero confidence in the plant management and it’s time WorkSafe took the matter seriously. It needs to act swiftly to ensure the boiler is shut down until both incidents are thoroughly investigated and the causes are fully addressed.”

Annie says she has written to AFFCO demanding they remedy the fault and undertake sustained testing and monitoring to ensure the boiler is safe before it is used again.

The union has also written to WorkSafe, requesting an urgent assessment by an inspector as well as an assessment of the boiler by a qualified external engineer.

ENDS

For more information, contact:

Annie Tothill E tū organiser ph. 027 573 4934

Annie has a busy day – please text her to make arrangements for an interview, and she will call back.

 

Sistema CEO hiding from workers

Sistema CEO Drew Muirhead has refused to meet with worker representatives to receive a petition signed by more than 300 Sistema workers.

The petition reminds Sistema that its high productivity levels and product quality are due in large part to its workers, and in return they should be respected and rewarded with fair pay.

E tū advocate Neville Donaldson says the signatories include both union and non-union workers at the giant plastics firm, “which shows you how aggrieved people are feeling,” he says.

“Anger over their working conditions extends across the entire factory floor. When non-union workers join their unionised colleagues to protest about lack of respect, you know there’s a problem,” Neville says.

“In this case, everyone wanted to express their frustration over not being valued for their contribution to Sistema’s success – something Sistema’s management has refused to take on board.

“They feel no obligation to respect or reward workers fairly.”

E tū delegates at Sistema say workers are fed up with compulsory 60-hour weeks for minimum rates of pay, as well as the terrible working conditions.

This week workers revealed via social media the blisters and callouses on their hands from the hard work they do. As one delegate told E tū: “It’s a sweatshop.”

Neville says Sistema’s refusal to deal with the concerns of its workers goes to the heart of the labour reforms of the current Government which has recognized the need for change.

ENDS

For more information, contact:

Neville Donaldson E tū advocate and National Director of Industries ph. 027 543 5312

No relief at Sistema sweatshop

E tū says Sistema’s American owners are determined to preserve the sweatshop conditions established by former owner, Brendan Lindsay who sold the company for $660 million.

The union has been in talks with this wealthy company, seeking better pay and conditions for its mainly migrant workers.

But E tū advocate, Neville Donaldson says Sistema’s multi-billion-dollar owner, Newell Brands refuses to consider anything more than the bare legal minimum.

“They’ve told us they won’t deliver any pay and conditions much more than the law requires for the vast majority of its staff – that’s bare bones minimum wages for workers who are required to work five 12-hour days – that’s 60 hours a week.

“Overtime” rates are just $2 more per hour and is only paid out after 60 hours per week.

“Some people work 12- hour days, seven days a week,” says Neville who accuses Sistema of the systematic exploitation of its predominantly Indian, Filipino and Pasifika workforce.

“They’re predominantly migrants and come from a back ground of having no choice but to accept whatever they are offered,” he says.

“Sistema is exploiting this belief, and the workers as a result.”

E tū delegate, Maria Latu says,” People think they are made to work like robots here. The operators are overworked and the money they get at the end of the week isn’t worth it.

“They deserve better,” she says.

Neville says Sistema is a perfect example of why workers need fair pay agreements.

“Sistema seems proud to be the lowest paid plastics firm in the country, with the worst conditions of employment and the longest hours, whilst lauding the success of its products.

“It must be challenged over its behaviour. If it goes unchallenged, then other employers may feel they also have to reduce pay and conditions to compete.

“Sistema needs to grow a soul and consider what’s fair for workers. The public is growing impatient with wealthy, exploitative companies – and that certainly describes Sistema.”

Neville says the union is looking to mediation next month to break the stalemate.

He says the union has strong support on site, with membership growing to more than 200 as workers grow sick of the long hours, low pay and fatigue of their grinding working week.

ENDS

For more information, contact:

Neville Donaldson E tū National Industry Strategy Director (Food) ph. 027 543 5312

 

 

LSG SkyChefs decision “important legal victory”

E tū is welcoming the decision of the Court of Appeal to turn down an appeal application from global airline catering company LSG SkyChefs, cementing an important legal victory for New Zealand workers.

Last year, the Employment Court ruled that hundreds of labour hire workers working in LSG SkyChef’s catering operation were in fact employees of the company, and if they were union members then they were entitled to the employment conditions set out in the union collective agreement.

E tū Assistant National Secretary John Ryall said that the Court of Appeal decision meant that the litigation was at an end, and LSG SkyChefs would need to pay the labour hire workers their proper entitlements.

“This decision cements our very important legal victory for the New Zealand workforce,” says John.

“Labour hire is being regularly used by many New Zealand companies to move the risk of employment on to a group of very vulnerable workers. It is time that the companies using labour hire in this way changed their business model.

“Our union will be knocking on the door of other companies who were also exploiting the mostly migrant labour hire workforce.”

ENDS

For more information or comment:
John Ryall, 027 520 1380

E tū: Nestle job losses “a bolt from the blue”

The union, E tū says the announcement of job losses at Nestle’s factory at Wiri in Auckland has come as a “bolt from the blue”.

The union has about 200 members at the plant, where up to 55 workers could lose their jobs after Nestle reached a provisional agreement to sell its sugar and confectionary business to private equity firm, Quadrant Private Equity.

Well-known Kiwi brands affected by the sale include Mackintosh’s, Heards, Black Knight liquorice, Life Savers and Oddfellows.

The restructure will also see production of Nestle’s Scorched Almonds move to a third-party contractor in Melbourne, while production of the iconic Lollipops brand will move to China.

“We were aware of the sell-off of product lines and cuts to staff overseas, so we asked the company specifically if there were any such plans for New Zealand,” says Phil Knight, E tū Industry Coordinator, Manufacturing and Food.

“We were assured there were none, so this has come as a bolt from the blue,” he says.

“Not only is this the opposite of what we were told, but we weren’t invited to the meetings they held with our members late yesterday afternoon to deliver this news, prior to the public announcement.

“So, we’re very disappointed. The company has issued a letter with its reasons for this restructure and sell-off and announcing a consultation process.  The union is making every case for a decent timeframe for this, given the probability of job losses.”

Phil says workers may be offered jobs at Quadrant’s Levin-based factory, or in Melbourne, “but we have yet to learn the detail of the sale proposal let alone any alternative work offers.”

In the meantime, he says the union is supporting its members “who are going through the usual range of emotions that you’d expect from an announcement like this.”

“While the union-negotiated collective agreement has very generous redundancy provisions, it is not the same as a job, and we are worried about this coming on top of other job losses in the food manufacturing industry in New Zealand,” says Phil.

Phil notes the decision comes soon after the Cadbury closure and follows announcements of future job losses at Griffins and Kraft Heinz Watties.

“This is yet another example of a global corporate making decisions which adversely affect local workers,” he says.

“I think it’s time for New Zealanders to think carefully about what products and businesses they support, and where the profits made go to.

“Where they have a choice and the products are competitively priced and of a good standard, we would urge them to consider buying New Zealand-made products only.”

ENDS

For more information, contact:

Phil Knight E tū Industry Coordinator, Food Sector ph. 027 591 0053

 

 

Industrial action at Premier Bacon

About 150 workers at Wairarapa company, Premier Bacon will begin industrial action just after midnight tonight (12.01am Tuesday, 26 June) in support of their pay claims.

The workers will refuse all overtime until the matter is resolved, says E tū Lead Organiser, Mark James.

“The company depends on our members doing overtime, as the plant is healthy and doing good business,” says Mark.

Mark says the total cost of meeting the members’ claims is about $118,000 – compared with company profits for the year to December, 2017 of $5.55 million.

The members are seeking a pay rise of 75 cents an hour, as well as an additional day’s sick leave, and an additional day of bereavement leave.

“Our members work in a cold, damp environment with temperatures below 4 degrees, so they get sick more often,” says Mark.

“And because they work with food, they may be required to stay away from work if they catch a bug – and some must do this when they have no sick leave left.

“Our members need just a tiny portion of Premier Bacon’s profit to meet these claims,” he says.

“By contrast, the company is investing about $15 million in expansion plans. Our claim is worth just 1.6 percent of that amount. Workers are Premier Bacon’s biggest asset and they should be respected.”

ENDS

For more information, contact:

Mark James E tū Lead Organiser ph. 0275 990 113