NZ Workers Band Together Against Aussie Corporate
NZ Workers Band Together Against Aussie
The crude use of the power of a corporate against vulnerable workers was how Ross Wilson, the Council of Trade Unions president described the battle between the locked out supermarket workers and their boss Progressive Enterprises – Progressive's parent company is the Australian corporate giant Woolworths.
Mr Wilson and National Distribution Union national secretary Laila Harre told the media that they were engaged in a David And Goliath struggle with the Australian corporate giant and that the tactics of Progressive Enterprises were to starve its New Zealand workers into submission.
This afternoon the unions that have been on the front lines in the battle for a collective agreement - the NDU and the Engineering Printing and Manufacturing union - were joined in their battle against Woolworth Australia's NZ subsidiary Progressive Enterprises by the entire New Zealand union movement.
Donations of money to assist the locked out NZ workers were also coming into union coffers from fellow workers in Australia. At an emergency meeting in Wellington various union delegates from across New Zealand heard how an Australian transport union had already donated $10,000 to assist the Kiwi workers who have been locked out of the workforce for more than two weeks.
After the NDU took industrial action in late August Progressive Enterprises issued lockout notices to all the striking workers that stopped them from rejoining the workforce until they gave up on their claim for a national collective agreement.
The action taken by Progressive Enterprises was a feature of employer behaviour through the early 1990s but one that had rarely been seen since the late 1990s.according to Mr Wilson
NDU national secretary Laila Harre explained that the NDU was in touch with unions in the United States who had been fighting against US corporate Walmart who - according to Ms Harre - went so far as to close a supermarket where workers had won the right to join a union. Ms Harre also explained to the media that the anti-union Walmart and Woolworths Australia had a management exchange program.
Every single course of action was being explored by the NZCTU according to Mr Wilson.
"I think they should be seriously considering how the impact on their reputation as an employer in NZ is going to impact on their business interests here," warned Ms Harre.
Customers of Foodtown, Woolworths and Countdown were also urged by various union delegates to boycott these supermarkets. Earlier this week the Green Party also called for a boycott of supermarkets owned by Progressive Enterprises.
The Maritime Union has swung in behind the locked out workers offering "practical" assistance
"It's just a game for the management who get paid fat salaries - and can afford full page ads - but it is the low paid workers in this battle who are putting themselves on the line to ensure a decent income for their families," said Maritime Union General Secretary Trevor Hanson in a press statement.
Mr Hanson was referring to Progressive Enterprises ability to wage a well-funded PR campaign against the locked out workers.
The pay of Woolworths Australian CEO Roger Corbett was alleged to be more than $8 million dollars per annum and the profits from New Zealand supermarkets a big part of the highly profitable Australian company.
Progressive Enterprises today threatened that any action the Maritime Union took to disrupt supplies of goods would be "irresponsible".
" [It would be] a very serious matter for the nation when third parties not involved in industrial action are unlawfully impeded in their rights to go about their daily business. Were this action to proceed we would regard it as irresponsible," said Progressive Enterprises in a press statement.
Relations on the frontlines of the picket were causing tension between workers with some of the locked out workers explaining to media that they no longer spoke to (former) friends that had buckled under financial pressure and signed away their right to a collective agreement.
Listen to the full media conference with Ross Wilson and Laila Harre initially taking questions followed by the locked out workers: