February 4, 2004
Historic mass stopwork in Wellington
More than 400 workers from metals and mixed manufacturing plants around Wellington gathered in Petone today for the biggest industrial stopwork meetings seen in Wellington since 1991.
The workers are all members of the country’s largest trade union, the Engineering, Printing and Manufacturing Union, seeking to renew the influential Metals and Manufacturing Industries Collective Agreement.
The Metals agreement is the largest private-sector industrial document in the country, covering more than 2000 workers at more than 200 companies and influencing the wages and conditions of thousands more workers in the manufacturing sector (a fact acknowledged by Victoria University’s Department of Labour Studies).
EPMU national secretary Andrew Little told the workers that it was only by coming together across an industry that they could have any real power.
“When we negotiate employer by employer, and as little pockets of workers, we negotiate not from a position of strength, but from a position of weakness,” he said.
The Government had proposed changes to the Employment Relations Act which would make it easier for workers to negotiate as an industry, Mr Little said.
“These proposed changes are coming under fierce attack,” he said. “There are some powerful vested interests who do not want to make it easier for working people to have real power and influence over their pay and conditions and the things that affect them at work.”
Negotiations between the EPMU and the Employers and Manufacturers’ Association to renew the Metals agreement are scheduled to start on February 24 in Auckland.
A mass meeting will be held in Auckland on February 11, New Plymouth on February 12, Napier on February 17 and Wanganui on February 18. Meetings were held in the South Island late last year.