September 7, 2006
NZEI Supports Locked Out Supermarket Workers
Members of the country’s largest education union, NZEI Te Riu Roa, are greatly concerned that Progressive Enterprises is trying to starve its distribution centre workers into submission over their bid for employment parity and a national collective agreement.
The Australian-owned company has locked out 600 workers employed at distribution centres in Auckland, Palmerston North and Christchurch. They supply dry goods to Woolworths, Countdown, and Foodtown supermarkets and FreshChoice and SuperValue stores.
These workers, who are on low wages, have not been paid since August 25, when they went on strike to support their claim for a national collective agreement and for pay parity across the distribution centres. Progressive Enterprises responded by locking them out on August 28.
“This is a classic case of a huge corporation using its financial muscle to try and bully and starve its workers into submission,” says NZEI Te Riu Roa Immediate Past President, Colin Tarr.
Progressive Enterprises is owned by Woolworths Australia, which employs 140,000 staff in Australia and 18,000 in New Zealand. The company recently announced a profit of $1.2 billion, a 24% increase, and the company’s CEO, Roger Corbett, earns $10 million a year.
“It’s outrageous that a corporation making a profit of more than a billion dollars a year, is denying 600 workers the right to have a national collective agreement coverage and to be paid at the same level,” says Colin Tarr.
Primary teachers, that belong to NZEI Te Riu Roa, took industrial action in the 1990s to gain pay parity with their colleagues in secondary schools. And this year, kindergarten teachers, who also belong to the union, received pay increases that saw them achieve pay parity with school teachers.
“Primary and early childhood teachers have fought long and hard for parity,” says Colin Tarr.
“This is why they fully support the battle by the locked out supermarket supply workers to have employment parity throughout the country.” .
“It’s clear that Progressive Enterprises’ is practicing a divide and conquer approach by denying these workers a national collective agreement.”
“The company is adopting a 19th century approach to managing its staff and I believe the majority of New Zealanders find this unacceptable in the 21st century,” says Colin Tarr.