August 25, 2006
Equal pay for southern supermarket workers
Striking South Island supermarket supply workers say they deserve to be paid as much at their North Island counterparts.
One hundred and forty workers are now picketing Progressive Enterprises’ two massive warehouses in Hornby, Christchurch, as part of a nationwide strike for a national collective agreement. The warehouses supply all South Island Woolworths, Foodtown, Fresh Choice and Countdown supermarkets and many independent grocery stores. The action is expected to affect supplies on supermarket shelves.
Engineering, Printing and Manufacturing Union director of organising Ged O’Connell, who is on the picket line, said that pay at the Christchurch warehouses was substantially less than at the company’s plants in Palmerston North and Auckland.
“The South Island workers are earning around $14.50 an hour, which is about $3 an hour less than their North Island colleagues are paid,” he said.
“This is clearly unfair, especially from a company that’s making huge profits.”
On Monday Progressive’s parent company, Woolworths Australia, announced a record profit of more than $1 billion, and attributed much of its success to the recent purchase of the New Zealand supermarkets.
The 48-hour strike, by members of the EPMU and the National Distribution Union, began early this morning and kicks off a week of industrial action at Progressive sites around the country.
The workers are seeking a national collective agreement with equal pay rates, an eight per cent pay rise and an extra week’s leave.
Workers are also striking today at the Palmerston North and Auckland warehouses.