Progressive Supermarket Meat Workers 5 Day Strike
New Zealand Meat Union (Aotearoa Branch)
Sunday, July 23, 2006
Progressive Supermarket Meat Workers Start 5 Day Strike
Twenty-four Progressive supermarket meat processors earning 30-50% less than industry standards, began a 5 day strike beginning this morning at 2 Chain Rd, Burnham, 30 km south of Christchurch.
The striking workers will be joined by the New Zealand Meat Union National Executive at 1.30pm and will be available to speak to the media.
Bill Watt, Canterbury branch President of the Meat Union, said that the union is seeking a 16 month contract with a 12% pay rise which would take workers up to $15.50 an hour in a first step towards pay parity with other workers in the industry.
“Progressive want to treat our member’s as though they are supermarket workers and have used this argument to justify paying them the same low wages that they pay their supermarket workers,” he said. “Our members only earn an average of $13.73 an hour - including an incentive bonus - despite doing the same job and being as productive as other workers in the meat industry who are earning between $18 and $30 an hour.”
Mr Watt said that it was indicative of how the company treated its workers when it took them 100 days to respond to the union’s initiation of bargaining, and only then after workers threatened a strike ballot. He said that Foodstuffs, who own Pak ‘n Save, sourced their meat from companies paying the standard rate.
Meat processing workers Shona (39) Coudret and her husband Peter (45) voted to strike after the company made a final pay offer of a 3.5% pay rise in the first year and 3% in the second year, despite the fact that the union had dropped additional claims such as overtime, weekend rates and piece-rates for production workers.
Mrs Coudret said she was outraged that the company had rejected their lowered wage claim which was still significantly lower than the industry standard. “I work in a meat processing plant, not a supermarket - yet they pay us and treat us as poorly as their supermarket workers,” she said. “I recently had a slight accident at work and was given a form to fill in for my doctor to find out what light duties I could still perform. The doctor said that according to the form I could work in lotto or do supermarket shelving. This made me very angry, so I took the form back to the boss and told him to get a proper form for meat workers.”
The Meat Union is receiving support from Progressive supermarket workers from the National Distribution Union’s ShelfRespect.org campaign. The National Distribution Union member’s will be deciding whether or not they will also take industrial action at stop-work meetings over the next fortnight, after negotiations with the company were adjourned last week.
National Secretary Laila Harré said that supermarket workers understood the striking workers situation: penal rates had been eroded and benefits have been grant-parented over the years meaning that young supermarket workers are earning 40% less than they would have twenty years ago. Butchers who had worked in Progressive supermarkets for as long as 20 years have recently been made redundant in Auckland to make way for Progressive’s centralised meat factory, she said.
Ms Harré and Mr Watt are encouraging customers and supporters to sign a petition in support of striking workers at http://www.shelfrespect.org/petition