Student, baker, activist pays it forward

E tū delegate Ines Mitgutsch says she believes unions can address many of the issues workers face

It was realising that her male colleagues in the same job were being paid one dollar an hour more than she was that really got Ines Mitgutsch fired up about workers’ rights.

A physics student who hails from Austria, Ines immediately went to her manager, who told her he’d come back to her about the issue.

A month later and still no answer, she followed up but was told her hourly rate would not be going up.

Quickly Ines joined E tū and started organising: “Seeing and feeling this injustice drove me to become very, very passionate about being a delegate.

“What if they hire another female baker and treat her like [they treated] me? I wouldn’t want anyone else to be in that position.”

Until September, Ines is also honing her organising skills as an intern at Te Ohu Whakawhanaunga (an emerging community alliance in Auckland), where she’s working with South Auckland communities to pinpoint key issues and identify potential solutions.

“As a consequence of wages being too low, basic things can’t be afforded. For example, the fact that people have to pay $30 to see the GP – some people don’t have $30.

“From my talks with the delegates that I’ve met so far, a lot of the issues are work-related, which is something that can very much be addressed by unions, and it’s why it’s important that workers are unionised.”