Workers at the centre of industry transformation

E tū Manufacturing and Food Industry Council Deputy Convenor, Lavina Rickard

It’s not every day that fisheries worker Lavina Rickard gets to sit down with chief executives and talk about putting workers first in a changing industry.

A supervisor at Sanford’s fish factory in Havelock, Lavina has been working hard over the past two years to make sure workers have a voice in a new industry plan for the manufacturing sector.

It’s a tripartite plan that was created by Government, business and unions, with Māori input from all three streams, to create a positive future for the sector.

Known as the Industry Transformation Plan (ITP) for Advanced Manufacturing, it was launched on 1 June. Some of the main priorities of the ITP are to invest in new technologies to lift productivity and wages, to ensure all workers have a plan to develop their skills, and to reduce the sector’s carbon emissions to zero.

A leader of the skills working group for the plan, as well as a member of the main steering group, Lavina says she has really emphasised the need for workers to upskill.

“Many workers are afraid of losing their jobs when new technology arrives, but that doesn’t have to be the case,” she says.

“Skilled workers can become technicians and companies will need to pay them more.

“The discussions with our working group have been constructive. I’ve said to them that with the training and upskilling, you also need to look at the management side of the business as well. You’ve got to create a culture that’s about retaining and attracting workers. Culture is very important,” she says.

Rachel Mackintosh, Vice-President of the New Zealand Council of Trade Unions and an E tū Assistant National Secretary, is a co-chair of the plan’s steering group.

NZCTU Vice-President Rachel Mackintosh (left) at the launch event

“The plan aims to transform the industry. Putting people and wellbeing at the centre of the plan gives us hope for a better life for union members working in the industry, and also for their whānau and communities,” she says.

“All workers in the industry can be engaged as the plan is rolled out. With the foundation that Lavina’s and others’ work has laid, workers can have a voice in their futures and make manufacturing a great place to work, with good skills and decent pay.

“As our member Edwin Ikani says, it’s about unleashing the creative potential of the workers. Then we all benefit.”