Category: Manufacturing and food

Strike threat pushes company to come to resolution with members

A strike notice led to a productive win for E tū and FIRST Union members at Oji’s Penrose Mill in Auckland. 

Members prepared to strike in December but instead secured a one-year deal with a 6% increase, including rates and allowances. 

E tū delegate Maurice Upton says it was the threat of a strike which led to the company filing a lockout notice, and the resulting mediation that meant Oji finally listened to members’ concerns.

“It got all sides talking and both wanted a good outcome,” he says.

There were two sets of claims for FIRST and E tū members, who each work in different parts of the business – production and maintenance.

E tū claims were mostly around ensuring pay parity with other workers in similar roles across the industry, along with a decent pay rise to bring base rates up.

They also strongly supported FIRST members fighting for better job conditions and allowances.

 Maurice says while some E tū members were disappointed the raise wasn’t higher given low base rates, 6% is probably the highest members have had as a one year deal, at least in the 18 years he’s worked there.

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


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


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


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

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.


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

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.


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

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

Manufacturing workers reject pay offer for strike to combat cost of living struggles

Workers at an Auckland lock manufacturing plant are walking off the job this week over a pay offer they say doesn’t go far enough to help members — some having to work regular overtime just to meet their daily expenses.

Around 50 E tū members from Assa Abloy are striking for 24 hours from Wednesday afternoon to secure a “decent” pay increase.

E tū delegate Ralph Greig, who works a night shift, says he estimates around 70 percent of other members on his shift regularly work 10 hours of overtime each week just to meet the cost of living.

“The general perception is that once you work 40 hours, you should be able to sustain yourself and lead a good life.

“But our members have to rely on overtime, which takes us away from our lives and family time, to make ends meet,” he says.

“It’s the only way that we can put food on the table, pay our rents — just working 40 hours is not enough.”

Assa Abloy has currently offered an increase which is not much higher than CPI, and members say it is simply not enough.

Ralph says members feel their pay claim is fair and now is time for better pay: “We are united in our stand because we feel the day-to-day pinch. The only way out is to minimise our hardships by fighting for decent pay.”

E tū organiser Eugene Setu says Assa Abloy members feel “left behind”.

“Given CPI, the increase in purchasing power for these members at the current pay offer is little more than 0.5 percent.

“They need a decent pay increase – so they can take home enough pay from a standard full-time week and be able to spend time with their families.”

Eugene says the strike is about workers taking a stand about their own value in the workplace.

“This is about workers taking ownership of their future through their collective action to create decent working lives.”

Assa Abloy members will be picketing outside their company premises at 6 Armstrong Road, Rosedale on Thursday 23 June from 6am to 2pm.


For more information and comment:
Eugene Setu 027 541 3630

Manufacturing workers strike as say they can’t wait longer for Living Wage

Up to 100 E tū members at a major transformer manufacturing plant in Auckland are striking and picketing on Friday in an effort to secure a Living Wage for the majority of its members as soon as possible.

Members working at ETEL Transformers say they want the company to increase the base rate for fully trained workers to at least the 2022/23 Living Wage rate from June.

The company wants to wait until December, but members say they can’t hold out any longer.

ETEL E tū delegate Viane Muliaga says members say they need at least the 2022/23 Living Wage now to cope with the huge rises in the cost of living, as many are struggling and some even working second jobs.

“Our members are telling us they need it now, not in December, as the company has offered.

“Many say they are struggling to survive on what they earn – especially with kids, rent or a mortgage, food, and not to mention petrol,” he says.

Viane says low current and past wages for the majority of members has also led to a high turnover of staff.

“It’s very physical work as well, so people leave to get easier, better-paid jobs elsewhere – we want to hold onto the workers we have.”

Another delegate Malu Schaaf says members simply can’t wait any longer for better pay: “They have told us that they need it now – not in six months.”

E tū organiser Jen Natoli says many workers, who have been underpaid for decades, are now pushing for more that they may have in the past, given the huge jumps in their own bottom lines.

“Wages haven’t kept pace for workers, and manufacturing companies are now having to consider what a Living Wage means to their workers when CPI is so high.”

She says historically low-paid workers finally asserting themselves in the fight for better pay is a trend likely to continue.

“While employers might be looking to get away with pay increases of around 6%, what we are seeing now is members who won’t settle for anything less than 8% to 10% – even up to 15% – after several decades of having just the minimum. 

“Because of low pay increases and an increasing Minimum Wage, manufacturing workers have found they no longer earn the margins they used to for their skills and experience – an industry once known for its well-paid jobs.

“When you’re paying high amounts for basic necessities, when you can’t make your rent, those wins become urgent.”

ETEL members are striking and picketing outside ETEL premises at 550 Rosebank Rd, Avondale, Auckland on Friday 10 June from 6.30am to 1pm.

Members have also put a ban on overtime hours from Wednesday 8 June to Monday 13 June.


For more information and comment:
Jen Natoli, 027 591 0041

Workers to lose jobs as major part of Auckland printing plant set to close

More than 100 workers will lose their jobs when a large proportion of the production at Auckland-based printing plant Ovato will stop for good at the end of April.

On Tuesday, the company announced that around 150 workers will be made redundant from its heatset printing arm of the business in Wiri, which produces products such as commercial catalogues and magazines.

Ovato, whose Christchurch branch closed in September last year, has been greatly affected by factors such as the global increase in paper prices, reduced demand, and the flow-on effect of Norske Skog, a major paper supplier in Kawerau, shutting.

Now, the company will only retain a smaller sheetfed production line at its Auckland plant.

Site delegate Owen Sinclair says the workers are in shock.

“Some have worked here for between 20-30 years. People are now going to have to work through what their entitlements are and when they’re going to finish,” he says.

“We’ll continue to work with the company to make sure we get that clarity for members.”

About 60% of those losing their jobs are E tū members.

E tū negotiation specialist Joe Gallagher says the situation for workers at Ovato is a perfect example of the flow-on effect of ruptured local supply chains.

“When a key player in Ovato’s supply chain – the Kawerau paper mill – closed, this left the company reliant on imported paper.

“Importing paper is not only expensive due to the huge increase in shipping costs, but there’s around a seven-month wait time to get paper from Europe.”

He says companies also face the risk that the price of what they’re shipping could also increase again while in transit, due to the impact of the Covid crisis overseas.

With similar situations taking place in other local industries, Joe says it’s critical to ensure that Just Transition plans are put in place to protect workers.

“We need to work together with companies and workers to get the best outcome for workers, as certain industries wind down and others ramp up.

“A Just Transition means things like creating plans for workers to retrain if necessary and to support them to transfer their existing skills to other roles. Initiatives such as the Government’s proposal for a national income insurance scheme, New Zealand Income Insurance, could also assist with this.”

Joe says there needs to be a longer-term view on maintaining local suppliers so domestic industries remain viable.

“If we rely solely on imported goods, this leaves us at the mercy of the international market to pay the asking price for those goods, which then ultimately trickles down to the working New Zealander.”


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