August 29, 2006
Progressive aggressive, says union
Progressive Enterprises’ decision to lock out 520 Supply Chain workers is a case of Australian-style employer aggression, says the Engineering, Printing and Manufacturing Union, which is asking its members to support the locked out workers.
The EPMU represents 120 workers in Christchurch who are part of a nationwide dispute to get a single national collective agreement with equal pay rates and an 8% pay rise. The other 400 workers are represented by the National Distribution Union.
The dispute escalated yesterday when Progressive issued a notice to unions saying that it was not prepared to negotiate a national agreement under any circumstances, and the workers would be locked out until they gave up that demand.
EPMU National Secretary Andrew Little says Progressive is opposed to a national agreement because it would no longer be able to pay its Christchurch workers at less than the going rate.
“Workers at Progressive’s Christchurch plant are paid $14.50 an hour, which is about $2 an hour less than their Palmerston North colleagues”, says Little. “This is clearly unfair, especially at a time when the company is making huge profits.”
“It looks like Progressive is trying on what it might be able to get away with in Australia under their harsh new laws - but it’s not acceptable here,” Mr Little said.
Little also dismissed the multi-billion dollar company’s claim in an advertisement this morning that it could not afford a pay rise. “If they've got enough money for full page newspaper ads across the country, then they've got enough money for a decent pay rise.”
The union has put out a call to its 50,000 members to support the locked out Progressive workers, who are now in urgent need of financial assistance. Donations can be made to the National Distribution Union at 02-0200-0217968-00 with the reference “Supply Chain”.
The EPMU’s National Executive will meet this week to consider what other support is available for the workers.