Griffins workers fight to defend their conditions
More than 100 Griffins Papakura workers picketed the factory this morning [Tuesday, 28 November] to protest the arrogant and confrontational approach being taken by management in the collective bargaining negotiations.
Talks broke down last Thursday in mediation when the company refused to accept claims to keep the extra week's annual leave to which long-serving employees are currently entitled.
Service and Food Workers Union Nga Ringa Tota Northern Region Secretary Jill Ovens says the company was recently taken over by Pacific Equity Partnership, an Australian conglomerate that has turned over $A2 billion in the last three years.
"Our union has previously enjoyed a reasonably good relationship with Griffins, but under the new ownership, things have turned sour.
"The company has brought in a consultant specifically to ensure that Auckland workers do not get the same deal the company has already given its Wellington staff."
Ms Ovens says the union's position was very reasonable.
"We offered the company a two-year term, because they're investing in the plant and wanted greater certainty. Our members actually preferred a one-year term, given recent fluctuations in the cost of living - petrol, electricity and so on.
"We put to the company that we would accept the settlement that the company had already agreed to in Wellington - 5% over 9 months for the first year and 4% in the second year."
The company came back with 3.75%, plus 3.5% in each of the following two years of a three-year term. Ms Ovens says that as well as the term and the pay offer, a big sticking point was the company's refusal to budge on its desire to remove the extra week's annual leave after five years' service.
"We take from this that the company is no longer committed to valuing its long-serving employees and the contribution all workers make to its profit."
SFWU members yesterday endorsed a number of actions, including an overtime ban and pickets.