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Wages campaign set to escalate

Wages campaign set to escalate

Strikes and rallies planned for next week

Frustrated workers are increasing the pressure on employers for a pay rise as the Fair Share – Five in 05 campaign starts to bite.

Tomorrow night (Sunday), workers will walk off the job at the Colgate Palmolive plant in Petone, and mass rallies will be held in Auckland and Christchurch next week.

Mediation in the wake of a 24-hour strike by Colgate workers on Wednesday failed to settle the dispute. The company has upped its pay offer from 3.4 per cent for one year to the equivalent of 4.49 per cent for a year (offering five per cent for 15 months). The workers want five per cent for one year.

It is the first industrial dispute in the plant’s 50-year history, and, says Engineering, Printing and Manufacturing Union national secretary Andrew Little, is a sign of the deep frustration among New Zealand workers.

“Good, honest, hard-working New Zealand people are tired of seeing the spoils of our economic boom going to everyone but them,” he said.

“They believe that they are entitled to a fair share, and are prepared to do what’s necessary to get it.”

Thousands of workers are expected to attend rallies in Auckland and Christchurch on Tuesday and Wednesday to show their support for the union’s Fair Share – Five in 05 campaign for a minimum five per cent pay rise for all working people.

The rallies, at Alexandra Park and Addington raceways, will be open to members of other unions and to people who are not union members.

“This campaign is for everyone,” Mr Little said, “whether you’re a union member or not. We’re all in this together, and it’s only be acting together that working people will win a decent pay rise.”

The rallies will be held as advocates in the key Metals agreement prepare to return to the negotiating table on Thursday. The Metals and Manufacturing Industries Collective Agreement – the country’s largest and most influential multi-employer, private-sector industrial document – sets the going rates and conditions for thousands of manufacturing workers.

Talks to renew the agreement broke down on February 25 with the employers (represented by the Employers and Manufacturers Association) offering a final-offer pay rise of 3.2 per cent.

On March 9, the EMA told the union that negotiations were at an end, but agreed to return to talks after workers across the country said that they would hold a half-day strike. Talks resumed on Wednesday (March 30) and are scheduled to continue next Thursday (April 7).

Mr Little said that increases to the Government’s Working for Families package, which took effect yesterday (April 1) were proof that New Zealand wages were too low.

“The fact that the Government has to pour money into subsidising wages so that working people can afford to feed their family is an indictment on the employers of New Zealand,” he said.

“While we applaud the Government’s actions, we maintain that the wages of working people must be high enough for them and their families to maintain a decent standard of living.”

The Colgate Palmolive strike will start at 11pm on Sunday.

The Auckland rally will be held at Alexandra Park at 10am on Tuesday, and the Christchurch rally will be at 1pm at Addington on Wednesday. Media are welcome to attend.

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