Category: Manufacturing and food

Government needs to progress transformation plans to save mill

E tū is calling on the Government to lend greater support to Aotearoa New Zealand’s local wood processing industry in the wake of the proposal to close Whakatāne Mill.

On Tuesday, the mill’s management presented workers with a proposal to shut the mill by the end of June. The closure would affect around 220 employees, including temporary workers.

E tū spokesperson Raymond Wheeler says the union will be supporting more than 40 more members during the consultation process.

He says the proposed closure lends some urgency to the Government’s work on an Industry Transformation Plan (ITP) for the forestry and wood processing sector, if local manufacturing is to survive.

“We need to see increased support for manufacturing in the regions, particularly in the form of government procurement for local wood products.

“These industries are also a vital part of the community’s economic wellbeing, as many local businesses such as in engineering, scaffolding, and associated industries, rely on a large operation like the Whakatāne Mill for work.”

Raymond says an ITP would enable workers to have more control over their futures by having a say in creating and maintaining decent work, while ensuring that the local manufacturing industry remains viable.

ENDS

For more information and comment:
Raymond Wheeler, 027 597 5404

Smelter extension brings certainty to Tiwai workers and community

Tiwai workers and the Southland community will now have time to plan a proper transition with the future of the Rio Tinto smelter secured for the next four years.

On January 14, it was announced that the smelter’s owner, Rio Tinto, has signed a contract with electricity provider Meridian Energy to keep the operation open until the end of 2024.

Originally, the company had proposed to close the smelter at the end of its contract in August, potentially impacting around 1000 workers and putting many local businesses and suppliers at risk.

Delegate Owen Evans says the majority of Tiwai workers are “quite happy with the decision” about the contract extension.

“For those with big mortgages and families, it’s been a relief for them. For younger ones, it removes the panic of having to search for a job immediately,” he says.

“Workers can stay at Tiwai in the interim and have the time to upskill to other roles they may want to do in future.”

The announcement is positive for many others in the community too, Owen says.

“A lot of people – for example, those in operations, suppliers, or food places – also rely on Tiwai.”

Owen says since the closure was first proposed, it’s been a struggle to attract new workers, with many leaving the company.

He says he hopes that will change thanks to the certainty the new contract provides.

Joe Gallagher, a negotiation specialist at E tū, says the news is a “win” for workers, the union and the community to enable a ‘Just Transition’.

“Four years gives everyone a lot of time to make choices about the future – whether that’s training, looking at different industries.

“Now people have a chance to put together a plan. It’s an opportunity for all parties, including the union, to put a frame around how things will look in 2024 and beyond.”

Since the proposed closure was announced last year, E tū has called on the company and the Government for a Just Transition to make sure the impact of switching to low-carbon or alternative industries doesn’t fall disproportionately on workers and their communities.

Joe says now there’s a new opportunity to set an example of a Just Transition model.

“We can make it the gold standard for what might help other communities to deal with this same question,” he says.

ENDS

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

Bagel workers get organised!

Workers at hip bagel joint Best Ugly Bagels, owned by celebrity chef Al Brown, have written to the employer announcing they are E tū members and want to negotiate a collective agreement.

Best Ugly Bagels employs around 90 staff across six outlets in Auckland and Wellington, and provides bagels to cafes and restaurants across the country.

Around half the Auckland-based workers are signed up to the union already, and they are taking their union message to their Best Ugly Bagel colleagues around the country.

Best Ugly Bagel worker and delegate Thomas Carlyle knows that being in the union will improve things at work.

“My friends and I really like working at Best Ugly Bagels – it’s a good working environment,” Thomas says.

“A bunch of us were chatting and felt that by getting together in the union, we could work with senior management to make it an even better place to work.”

Fellow worker and delegate Ines Mitgutsch agrees: “For us, sticking together with our workmates makes us feel more confident when we challenge things that don’t seem right.”

E tū organiser Mat Danaher says there are many issues in the hospitality industry that unions can help to fix.

“In general, the hospitality industry is plagued by low pay, long hours, and exploitation of thousands of workers,” Mat says.

“Just like any industry, hospitality workers organising collectively in their union will help them to secure their basic rights, and give them a platform to win the things that will really improve their work conditions, such as the Living Wage and Fair Pay Agreements.

“We’re looking forward to building a constructive relationship with Best Ugly Bagels and helping them to become leaders as responsible employers in the hospitality space, hopefully leading the way for improvements in the wider hospitality industry as well.”

ENDS

For more information and comment:
Mat Danaher, 021 336 519

Temperzone workers to picket on Monday

E tū and FIRST Union members at Auckland air conditioning and ventilation manufacturing plant Temperzone, are set to picket near the premises on Monday.

Many workers had to use up their leave or take leave in advance during the lockdown, and they now face selection scores for possible redundancy.

At the picket, members and their families will hand out flyers to the public to explain how they’ve been treated by the company during COVID-19 alerts.

It is also expected to be the first physically distanced community picket in the country.

E tū delegate Pena Tamamasui says workers are picketing because they’ve “had enough of being disrespected at work”.

“The company used our leave and only applied for the subsidy a week ago, after they proposed to cut up to 85 of our jobs.”

Last week, workers received letters confirming their selection scores for redundancy, and they feel Temperzone is not listening to their feedback or engaging in good faith.

“Our community and the public needs to know how we’ve been treated and that it’s not on. We all need to do our bit so New Zealand recovers, and our community needs to know Temperzone isn’t,” Pena says.

E tū is calling for New Zealand to rebuild better as a nation, and that means keeping New Zealand manufacturing jobs for our communities.

Rebuilding better also means workers’ wages leading our recovery, E tū Team Leader Jen Natoli says.

“Everyone should get 100% of their normal pay – instead of seeing their leave used and weekly income reduced to the point of wondering how they will put food on the table for their families,” Jen says.

“By putting money in people’s pockets, we make sure that goods and services are kept in demand in all our local communities, keeping businesses thriving – that’s how our economy will recover.”

Workers will picket in non-work time, still working their hours as expected.

ENDS

For more info or comment:
Jen Natoli, 027 591 0041

For details about the picket:

Blue Rika, 027 204 6339

Members will be picketing from 6am-8am on the corner of Massey Rd and Tidal Rd in Mangere.

Tempers rise at Temperzone

E tū members at Temperzone say they have been let down by their employer, citing a lack of good faith and basic respect.

Temperzone, a company that manufactures and distributes air conditioning and ventilation systems in Auckland, had forced many workers to use up all of their leave and take leave in advance.

The company also chose not to apply for the wage subsidy, meaning that workers weren’t necessarily given the 80% of their normal earnings while off work.

E tū member Simi Lo says the company’s behaviour is taking a huge toll on him and his family.

“The uncertainty, the lack of good faith, and the apparent lack of concern for us workers have been a huge stress on our family, causing a lot of heartache and sleepless nights,” Simi says.

“Advanced leave has been my only option – I had a family holiday over Christmas, so I either had to take advance leave or have no income at all. How would I have been able to pay the bills and feed my family?”

Many other Temperzone workers are in a similar situation, which will create many issues in the near future, Simi says.

“Some people don’t have enough annual leave or sick leave throughout the year, it’s only April and they’re expecting us to use up all our leave, but what happens if we have important family matters that we need to attend some times throughout the year? How are we going to apply for a day off if we run out of leave by then, and what happen if we get sick? Does that mean we still come to work if we’re sick?”

Pena Tamamasui, head site delegate at Temperzone, says that workers aren’t feeling respected.

“Union members at Temperzone feel betrayed,” Pena says.

“These are smart, skilled workers who have been loyal to their company and have reached out to partner with the company to get through this. This crisis is not the time for top-down decision making. Our members simply want transparency and fair consultation, keeping our people at the heart of any response.” 

E tū organiser Jen Natoli says that the company’s decision to leave workers out in the cold is a worrying sign, especially with possible redundancies on the cards.

“Temperzone have put out a proposal to axe up to 65 jobs at the site, which is already stressful enough for our members,” Jen says.

E tū members reported late Monday they had received letters with their selection criteria score but at the time of this release neither E tū nor FIRST unions had heard officially from the company.

“Now is the time for us as a country to pull together so that NZ owned and operated manufacturing companies scale up and become the backbone of a decent recovery.  Now is the time to rebuild better, and that means keeping Kiwi businesses alive. Cutting jobs now will do the opposite.  We call on the company to work through alternatives with us and the government to support our crucial manufacturing sector.

“This company manufactures products that help make homes healthy in a time when we have a housing shortage. There is a huge place for manufacturers like Temperzone as we rebuild, not only for our homes but also for providing decent jobs for our communities at a time when our economy needs to restart.”

ENDS

For more info or comment:
Jen Natoli, 027 591 0041

NZ Steel plant closure a blow for the Waiuku community

NZ Steel’s Pipe and Hollows Plant has told workers that they are undertaking a restructure which could see the end of their jobs at the plant for most workers.

The 60 workers affected would have to be redeployed elsewhere, or face having no job at all.

Delegate Lance Gush, a NZ Steel worker for 14 years, says this would be a blow to their families and the wider the Waiuku community.

“On Tuesday, even under the new Level 3 restrictions, the team embraced returning to work. We were happy to get back to some normality for ourselves and our families.

“We’re a team of 60 with people from five months to forty five years of experience at the plant. We were glad to be back this week, doing work we’re proud of, with assurance from management to push forward.

“By Thursday afternoon, we were confronted with a proposal that shook all of that completely.”

Lance is concerned about the impact the restructure will have on a community already bearing the brunt of the COVID-19 crisis.

“I have workmates with young families, who have already experienced the job loss of one parent. Now with this announcement, they’ve found both Mum and Dad’s employment balancing on a knife edge.”

Lance says that retaining their jobs isn’t just about the workers and their families but also the future of the New Zealand economy.

“There is an opportunity for the Government to invest in the future of our country and stimulate our economy by supporting and utilising our domestic products, resources and workforce.”

E tū Negotiation Specialist Joe Gallagher says there’s much more that we should be doing to support NZ steel and the wider manufacturing industry.

“From pit to port, it’s time to support local steel production,” Joe says.

“We need to be creating a level playing field so that New Zealand isn’t constantly undercut by cheap steel imports.

“We know the long and often distressing history of manufacturing here. Let’s beginning turning it all around.”

Joe says that the Government should take this opportunity to fix the problems in manufacturing, as part of rebuilding better after COVID-19.

“E tū has just launched a new campaign, Rebuild Better, outlining the way forward for New Zealand during and after the global pandemic.

“One of our key principles is the need to keep and create decent jobs. These workers at NZ Steel love their jobs, and they should really be protected by our industry planning.

“We will rebuild better, and we’ll rebuild with New Zealand made steel.”

ENDS

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

Victory! Sistema workers off on full pay

E tū members at Sistema have secured a huge victory, with all production workers off work on full pay for the next four weeks.

Sistema claims to be an essential service and had originally told workers they would be working through the Alert Level 4 shutdown period.

The members were not satisfied with the lax approach to health and safety, so they left the building and refused to do anymore work on Wednesday, until they could be sure it was safe.

After a WorkSafe visit today, the company has now told workers that they will not have to report to work and will be on full pay for the next four weeks.

E tū member and production worker at Sistema, Ilisapesi Talanoa, has a lot of gratitude for her colleagues.

“A big thank you to union and non-union members for standing up for what’s right. You’ve stood up to protect yourself and your family,” she says.

“I’m so proud that everyone came together to fight for our health and safety. Our first priority is our people.”

Ilisapesi also has a message for all Kiwis: “Be safe, be kind, and much love.”

E tū organiser Mat Danaher says that this result wouldn’t have happened without the members taking matters into their own hands.

“Let’s make no mistake, this is a direct result of workers coming together to defend the safety of themselves, their family, and their community,” Mat says.

“Many Kiwis will remember the struggles that Sistema workers have been through. They’ve learnt that they have real power over their work lives when they stand up for each other.”

Mat says that the classification of essential services is quickly becoming a massive concern as the New Zealand workforce deals with the COVID-19 impacts and restrictions.

“There are two main issues. The first is the risk of employers dubiously claiming that they are an essential service because they are somewhere along the supply chain for actual essential services. We will need a lot more clarity around this in the coming days.

“The second issue is that those who actually qualify as essential services are often completely unprepared for working safely, such as by providing PPE and giving workers enough physical distance from each other.

“Both issues mean that unions and Government need to ensure WorkSafe, the Labour Inspectorate, and workers themselves are vigilant to ensure the virus can’t spread through unsafe work.

“Until then, workers around New Zealand should learn from Sistema workers’ brilliant example – to stay safe, we have to use our collective power. Every decision we make to slow the spread of the virus will save lives, and there’s nothing more important than that.”

ENDS

For more info and comment: Mat Danaher, 021 336 519
Sistema members may be available for interviews on request. Please contact Mat to arrange.

Sistema workers walk out over H&S concerns

Workers at Sistema’s Auckland plant have taken matters into their own hands today as the company refuses to take their health and safety seriously. They are now on a health and safety strike.

When workers have been asking about personal protective equipment (PPE), they have apparently been told to “wait and see” what the government advice is – despite clear regulations coming into force.

They have also been required to keep working on production lines, often standing less than a metre apart for hours at a time.

With this being clearly unacceptable, workers have now gathered in the carpark and some have gone home.

E tū organisers are assisting the workers, including by making sure that they are practising physical distancing while on strike.

E tū Assistant National Secretary Annie Newman says the employer’s behaviour is despicable.

“E tū is appalled by the brazen lack of respect and common decency from Sistema,” Annie says.

“All workers have a right to healthy and safe work. It is as clear as day, from the government advice we are all receiving, that the conditions described by E tū members at Sistema are far from adequate.

“We have had many issues with Sistema in the past, but this is simply abhorrent. We completely support any of our members refusing to work in unsafe conditions – that is their legal right.”

Annie added Sistema’s behaviour puts us all at risk.

“This is not just about our workers, it’s about their families and communities. It’s about anyone who they may come into contact with. Sistema is putting production ahead of the health of New Zealanders. It’s not an exaggeration to say that Kiwis will die because of employers like this not taking COVID-19 seriously.

“The vast majority of New Zealanders are making gigantic sacrifices to keep each other safe. Now a company worth hundreds of millions of dollars is compromising that to try and squeeze a little bit more out of our overworked and underpaid members.

“New Zealanders have united against COVID-19 and are uniting against the small handful of employers who think their profits are worth more than our lives. We can now add Sistema to that list of disgusting businesses.”

ENDS

For more information and comment:
Annie Newman, 027 204 6340

Imperial Tobacco closure blow to workers, community

E tū says today’s confirmation that the Imperial Tobacco plant in Petone will close is a blow to the members as well as the wider Lower Hutt community.

E tū organiser Damon Rongotaua says the closure, which means the loss of 122 jobs, is the result of several factors which have sounded the death knell for the 100-year old plant.

“It’s a combination of factors and unfortunately they feed off each other,” Damon says.

“As a result of health policies designed to reduce smoking including higher excise, there are declining sales and over-capacity both here and in Australia, where some of the product is sold. The plant also needs up to $4 million to bring it up to code. They’ve got two practically new plants overseas and that’s where this work will be going.

“So, there’s no coming back from it unfortunately. It’s the downside of globalisation,” he says.

Damon says E tū members have a collective agreement with one of the best redundancy clauses in the country and many will get big pay outs, especially those with decades of service.

But he says other workers with little service behind them have been hit hard. 

“We’ve got a couple pushing 50 years’ service; many have 35 to 45 years’ service, and about 35% have about 25 years’ service plus. About 40% have done 10-25 years, and then there are the newer workers.

“They’re really upset about it, because they’ve just got a really well-paid job and now it’s over.”

Damon says the plant pumped millions of dollars into the Hutt Valley, to the benefit of the workers but also local businesses.

“The ones that have been there a while, they’ve been expecting it. But it’s still a sad day for them. Actually, it’s a sad day for the whole Hutt Valley. It’s going to leave a massive hole in the community and the economy.

“I know it’s not the retail product of choice but for all the bad press around it, it’s helped a lot of people to buy homes and kept communities running.”

Damon says the factory will go through a staged shut-down with the decommissioning of the plant due to be completed by the end of the year.

He says over that time the union will be working to ensure company commitments to provide re-employment assistance are met and that redundancy payments are correct.

ENDS

For more information, contact:

Damon Rongotaua E tū organiser ph. 027 591 0010