Category: Manufacturing and food

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

E tū response to Imperial Tobacco closure proposal

E tū has been meeting with our members at Imperial Tobacco in Petone, where workers learned this week about a proposal by global parent company Imperial Brands to close the plant.

E tū represents 82 workers at the plant.

“Imperial Tobacco’s global parent has proposed shutting the factory,” says E tū organiser, Damon Rongotaua.

“We are meeting with our members to guide them through the process and working with the company to ensure our people are well-looked after pending a final decision on 13 February.”

The union won’t be commenting further until 13 February when the final decision is known.

ENDS

E tū: Claymark members wait for certainty

E tū says uncertainty hangs over the future of forest products firm Claymark Group after it was placed in receivership, though the hope is it will find a buyer.

E tū has 20 members at the Claymark processing site on Geddes Road in Rotorua, one of six sites around the country.

E tū Team Leader, Raymond Wheeler says news of the receivership came as “a bolt from the blue but considering the news, the mood of the members remains positive and hopeful a buyer can be secured.”

He says the union has spoken to the receiver and for now the company continues to trade as normal.

“That is good news given this time of year,” says Raymond.

“There is a sale and purchase agreement with New Zealand Future Forest Products which is open until 31 December, so they are obviously still negotiating. But because Claymark couldn’t meet its debt repayment schedule, the receiver’s been called in and will work with the parties to broker a deal.

“Meanwhile, everything is business as usual. The guys are being paid their wages and leave entitlements over the Christmas break will be paid in the usual way.”

He says there is optimism that if the NZFFP deal falls over, there could be alternative buyers.

“It’s now in the hands of the receivers. We’ll have more certainty about where this goes next once we know what happens on 31 December.”

ENDS

For further information, contact:

Raymond Wheeler E tū Team Leader ph. 027 597 5404

Metals MECA settles

E tū’s flagship employment agreement for manufacturing, the Metals and Manufacturing Multi-Employer Collective Agreement, has been settled.

The Agreement, or Metals as it is known, is E tū’s oldest and biggest manufacturing industry agreement and provides a guide for all pay deals across the manufacturing sector.

The one-year settlement includes pay rises of between 3 percent and 3.7 percent and retains a margin of 50 cents above the minimum adult wage for the lowest printed pay rates in the document.

Members also secured an enhanced redundancy provision for workers with between six and 12-months service.

“As with many other renewals of collective agreements around the country at the moment, this agreement had to take into account two increases in the minimum wage, and at the same time, to maintain the relativities with wages across the industry,” says E tū advocate, George Hollinsworth. 

“The settlement does this and we think the pay deal we’ve reached is a good one.”

ENDS

For more information, contact;

George Hollinsworth E tū Advocate ph. 027 675 1338

Metals update

The employer advocate has finally signed off the Terms of Settlement for the Metals and Manufacturing MECA and the renewal document is being formatted.

The original parties’ campaign will kick off soon. Keep checking our website for updates and you can expect contact from your organiser soon regarding your ratification meetings.

As usual, the subsequent parties’ campaign will follow thereafter.

Big pay rises as Sanford workers ratify new pay deal

E tū members at Sanford Bluff are celebrating big pay rises after they voted unanimously to accept the company’s pay offer following wage bargaining last week.

The deal means 98% of Sanford Bluff workers will be earning the Living Wage or above, through a mix of higher wages as well as allowances.

Many workers were earning the minimum wage of $17.70. Including allowances, their pay will increase to the Living Wage of $21.15. Others will earn $22.36 an hour which is above the Living Wage.

The deal is backdated to 15 June. Workers who lost their jobs after restructuring at the plant will also receive backpay at the new rates up to their last day of employment.

“This is a fantastic victory for our members who have campaigned together with the Bluff community for the Living Wage for Bluff workers,” says Anna Huffstutler, E tū organiser and advocate.

“Sanford isn’t yet a Living Wage Employer so it’s not exactly where we want to be, but we have made a vital first step towards the Living Wage for our members and a significant move towards addressing low wages at Bluff,” she says.

Anna says the term is one year.

“That means we can come back next year and have a good shot at the Living Wage as a starting rate for all members.”

Sanford Bluff delegate, Linda Bevin says members are delighted with the pay increases.

However, she says Sanford is not yet an accredited Living Wage Employer, “so there is still work to do.”

ENDS

For more information, contact Anna Huffstutler E tū organiser and advocate ph. 027 209 7436

Anna will be able to provide members to speak for interested media.

Cloud Ocean job losses “disappointing” says E tū

E tū, the union at Cloud Ocean, says it met today with site management and its union delegates to discuss the company proposal to lay off 125 of the 160 strong work force.

E tū Industry Coordinator (Manufacturing & Food), Phil Knight says the company has been difficult to work with but it’s disappointing things have come to this.

“This is hard news for the workers, and we will be talking with our members about a response to the proposal, and doubtless seeking compensation for the loss of their jobs and income, as well as commitments around re-employment should the plant resume operations,” says Phil.

He says he’s hopeful most workers will find jobs in the event the plant shuts down.

“They’re good workers and any of the businesses crying out for people with a good work ethic and production skills would benefit from offering them employment.”

Phil says the union has no view on the controversy surrounding the company’s use of water from the local aquifer.

“The thing for us is whether they’ve been a fair and reasonable employer and contributed to the Christchurch economy, and the fact is they haven’t,” says Phil.

“These are permanent workers on pretty much minimum wages and conditions, and the work is precarious – they’ve faced constant changes of shift and shift cancellations at short notice.

“It’s had a high turnover because of the very poor conditions,” he says.

Phil says the company seems to have been disorganised from the start.

“There appears to have been little due diligence to ensure they had a market to supply, to as well as what’s required to run a business in New Zealand. They’ve been applying practices that may be commonplace in China but not acceptable in New Zealand.”

Phil says that includes constant breaches of health and safety, basic employment conditions and Holiday Act provisions.

Phil acknowledged few in Canterbury will be sad to hear the plant is likely to close.

“Besides wages, Cloud Ocean has contributed little to Christchurch, with materials including the plastic bottles, boxes and equipment all imported from overseas.

“But there is an opportunity to at least ensure any worker losing their job through this is treated right, and to look after staff properly if they do get production underway again.”

ENDS

For more information, contact:

Phil Knight E tū Industry Coordinator (Manufacturing & Food) ph. 027 591 0053