Category: Manufacturing and food

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.

ENDS

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.

ENDS

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.”

ENDS

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

‘Just Transition’ plans needed for declining industries, union says

E tū is calling for transition plans for industries affected by the changing marketplace, in the wake of a proposed closure of a major printing plant.

Almost 60 workers are set to lose their jobs at the Christchurch branch of Ovato, a print distribution company that has seen demand for its South Island business badly affected by the COVID crisis.

Around 30 E tū members will be affected by the proposal, the outcome of which will be confirmed on Monday.

All of Ovato’s business will then move to its other plant based in Wiri, Auckland.

On hearing the news, E tū delegate Ken Gibson says: “Members are gutted but saw writing on the wall with the way the work was slowing down.

“We have people who’ve been here anywhere from 10 to 40 plus years.”

The company has sent all workers home for the rest of the day, as many are in shock after the proposal was announced.

Joe Gallagher, a negotiation specialist at E tū, says while the company is providing good redundancy terms and packages for union members, Just Transition plans for supply chain businesses like Ovato are essential.

“We need to see transition plans for whole industries – like printing – in the supply chain, so that we can all work together to get the best outcome for workers, as some industries wind down and others ramp up.

“This applies not only to industries impacted by marketplace changes, but also to those that we know will be affected by other major factors such as climate change.

“There’s also some urgency to this, as the impacts of the pandemic are hastening the decline of some industries faster than might have occurred otherwise.”

Joe says other businesses in the printing industry have also shown signs of struggle, and workers need to be involved in planning their working futures.

“As we see changing trends continuing to affect demand in this industry, we need to craft alternative work pathways for workers so they can take their skills into other areas or have the opportunity to retrain.

“As always, workers’ voices are a key part of any transition plan, and unions have a clear role to play in facilitating this.”

ENDS

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

Shock redundancy proposal at Nestlé confectionery factory

Auckland’s Nestlé workers are in shock at a restructuring proposal which would see almost 40% of their site’s union members lose their jobs, with plans to stop confectionery manufacturing at the plant altogether.

On Wednesday, Nestlé revealed its plan to make around 40 workers redundant at its Wiri site, due to several of its product lines now slated to be produced in Australia and another product line proposed to be outsourced to a third-party manufacturer.

If confirmed, the redundancies would go ahead in December.

According to the proposal, the redundancies are part of a plan to completely shut down the confectionery manufacturing arm of its Wiri site.

E tū’s National Executive Northern Region Representative Gadiel Asiata, who also works in food manufacturing, says the news is a huge shock and will likely have a ripple effect on the community.

“Nestlé is one of those companies that has supported South Auckland for a long time, and it has been the main source of income for a lot of people in that community.

“It’s really sad that it’s come to this – we’re potentially losing something that generates jobs, along with workers who have been at the company for many years.”

E tū Team Leader Jen Natoli says the blow is reminiscent of the Cadbury closure in Dunedin in 2018 and serves as a stark reminder of yet another global corporate making a decision, without proper regard for how it affects workers.

Many workers have invested many years of their lives to make the company successful, she says.

“The size of the confectionery manufacturing plant and the number of jobs it provides to South Auckland workers is significant.

“When large companies, such as Nestlé, come into the country to do business and then leave when they find a better deal elsewhere, it can devastate local communities – especially now when we need to invest in recovery and rebuilding.”

Jen says should the proposal go ahead, E tū is calling on Nestlé to do the right thing to ensure none of its workers are without jobs come Christmas.

“This means redeployment, getting members’ skills credentialed and qualified, actively working with E tū to find alternative employment, and making sure those members who find new jobs are able to exit when they need to with their full redundancy entitlements.”

Jen says in the wake of COVID-19, it’s obvious that decent work not only includes decent pay and a safe work environment, but also stability and security.

Decisions need to be made with workers at the forefront, and we will be fighting to ensure Nestlé’s workers get a fair deal.”

According to the Dun & Bradstreet Business Directory, Nestlé New Zealand has 356 employees (all locations) and generated $277.79 million (USD) in in 2019.

ENDS

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

Whakatāne Mill confirms closure but opportunities remain

The closure of Whakatāne Mill has been confirmed, with over 150 skilled operational workers being made redundant after 85 years of operations.

FIRST Union and E tū say that while vital the impact on the local community will be significant, there is still a chance for a new buyer to repurpose the existing plant and secure crucial infrastructure in New Zealand’s forestry supply chain.

“There are many options for refitting the existing assets to continue manufacturing pulp and paper products,” said Jared Abbott, FIRST Union Secretary for Transport, Logistics and Finance.

“We are inviting potential buyers to ask for our assistance to get the support needed to make the most of the existing skills and infrastructure available.

“There are opportunities in the industry and there is an important role for Government to play in securing the wood supply chain and increasing our manufacturing capacity.”

E tū spokesperson Raymond Wheeler says the announcement of the closure is “devastating” for local industry, including businesses such as scaffolding and engineering.

“We’ve just had the economic impact of the Whakaari (White Island) eruption and COVID-19 on Whakatāne’s tourism industry to contend with, and now the region has been dealt this blow. It’s an enormous hit to the regions and to the eastern Bay of Plenty.”

Raymond says job opportunities in the area are limited, and emphasises the urgency around the Government’s work on an Industry Transformation Plan (ITP) for the forestry and wood processing sector, if local manufacturing is to survive.

ENDS

For more information and comment:
Jared Abbott, 021 617 131

Raymond Wheeler, 027 597 5404

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