Press Release: National Distribution Union
Monday, August 21, 2006
Sixty Workers Strike To Stop Second Shutdown
Sixty striking Cambridge Clothing workers will air their demands on a clothes (picket) line from 7.30am until 12 noon today at 3094 Great North Rd New Lynn, says the National Distribution Union.
The first strike in living memory at New Zealand's 139 year old manufacturer of men's clothing follows controversy surrounding the Greens "Buy Kiwi Made" campaign.
Workers want a 1 year agreement for 5% but the company has offered a 2 year contract for 2.2% in the first year with the right to choose the second year's percentage, the end to service leave and a second 5 day shutdown period.
Site delegate, Monica Anness, said that New Zealanders wanted to know that Buy Kiwi Made meant quality clothing with quality pay and conditions.
"I press men's tailored suits that sell for up to $1500 and believe Cambridge Clothing have got the money to pay us fairly," she said. "For the past 12 years that I've been working here we've helped the company out by accepting pay rises at or below inflation. But enough is enough - many of us earn just above the minimum wage and they've offered us 1.8% below inflation. We want 5%."
Monica said that she beleives the proposed second week-long shutdown is an attempt by the company to get around the Government's introduction of an extra weeks annual leave next year.
"For 5 days of the year the company shuts down are we are forced to take annual leave if we have any left or we won't get paid. It's great that the Government is giving us an extra week next year, but a second shutdown would mean that the company could take away that extra time I could be spending with my grandchildren during their holidays."
Maria, a machinist and delegate, is one of the many older workers who also faces losing her extra week's service leave that she has received for 25 of her 32 years at the company.
"I stood up at the union meeting and told the younger workers that I would be retiring in three years. I've never been on strike before but I told them now was the time to strike, that it's their life and their future. That's when they stood up and agreed that it was better to do something to wake the company up rather than to keep waking up without earning enough to survive. "
National Secretary Laila Harré that it is was by taking a stand like Monica and Maria that workers could guarantee quality jobs in New Zealand.
"The Cambridge Clothing workers strike highlights the need for the Buy Kiwi campaign to protect quality local manufacturing jobs, not New Zealand designers who pay Chinese workers appalling poverty wages."
Ms Harré said that 'buy kiwi made' means preserving well paid jobs in New Zealand to help create better minimum standards for clothing workers everywhere.
"New Zealand should be leading the race to the top, not following the race to the bottom."