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1000 workers start action at SkyCity on weekend

1000 workers start industrial action at SkyCity on weekend: 97.5% vote for 6 months of rolling strikes

Press Release: Unite Union
1 August 2008

A 24-hour strike by SkyCity workers will start 10am this Saturday until 10am Sunday.

Union negotiations have broken down between new SkyCity management and the two unions representing over 1300 SkyCity workers – SEA-Unite Union and the Service and Food Workers Union.

“SkyCity have cancelled all leave and rostered on their management and non-union members to work double shifts. Union members do not wish to inconvenience the public too much at this stage and will not close down the site during the strike. However they feel they have no option but to take this action as it seems the only way to send a message to the new CEO and the SkyCity board that their insulting offer is unacceptable,” says Unite National Secretary and union advocate Matt McCarten.

“Already this week hundreds of SkyCity workers have been walking off the job each day in protest,” McCarten advises, “and rolling strike actions will continue every day until the end of the year. If the dispute is still unresolved by then union members will close SkyCity down completely on New Year’s Eve.

“The new CEO Nigel Morrison has been employed by the SkyCity board to make it priority to extract a $110 million profit. That’s an incredible $44,000 from each employee. Yet SkyCity have offered a derisory 4 per cent package this year and 3.5 per cent next year. That means less than $20 a week in the hand for most SkyCity workers when petrol and food prices are going through the roof.

“Morrison’s $3 million dollar remuneration package includes a large bonus if he achieves this figure. Unfortunately the way in which he intends to get it is by clawing back current staff conditions and presenting a wage offer that barely covers inflation.

“The entire current offer to all 1300 union members on the Auckland site is less than Morrison’s salary package. It makes the claim by SkyCity that they can’t afford it a bit rich.

“What is most disturbing is that SkyCity wants most new employees to start on $12 an hour for the first two years. This means that New Zealand’s pre-eminent tourism and hospitality attraction will pay the lowest rates in this already low paid sector. Under Morrison’s leadership, a SkyCity employee in their first year would be paid the same as a 16-year old youth on their first day flipping hamburgers at McDonald’s.

“The offer by SkyCity of $15 an hour to some employees with three or more years service is modest although it moves in the right direction. But this won’t be paid by the company. SkyCity has outraged union members by insisting that to pay this modest increase the unions would have to agree to slash the wages of new employees in their first two years by $32 a week and make them wait three years on the minimum wage before they are entitled to get $15 an hour,” McCarten says.

“The unions in return are asking for a modest five per cent increase, and recognition of service for longer serving staff. There are many staff who have been with SkyCity for over 10 years who receive a measly $12.81 an hour. The SkyCity workers want modest minimums at the casino of $15 after two years, $16 after five years and $17 after 10 years service.

At recent union meetings attended by over 600 members, rejection of the company offer and the decision to take industrial action over the next six months was passed by 97.5 per cent.

“At a meeting of the 100 person strike committee held yesterday a decision was made that union members will not clean up vomit, excrement and other bodily fluids, or handle used syringes or condoms found on the premises during the period of industrial action.

“Union members are looking forward to management carrying out these tasks,”McCarten explains.

In addition, Grand and SkyCity housekeeping staff have put a limit on how many rooms they can clean in a day.

“The new senior management of SkyCity needs to understand that their profiteering on behalf of their shareholders at the expense of their hardworking and loyal staff must come to an end.

“SkyCity Tower is part of Auckland’s skyline. As such it is part of all of our lives and our community and we expect Auckland workers to be treated in an equal manner to their SkyCity counterparts in Australia.

“Mr Morrison and his senior management are Australian or have worked until recently in Australia. Workers employed by SkyCity are paid considerably more than they are here. It seems the new Australian management team feels that workers in Auckland can be treated like serfs and can be paid far less wages than the SkyCity staff employ in Australia doing the same work.

“The union members are adamant that they will fight for as long as it takes to receive a living wage from a very profitable monopoly. The sooner the company senior management and the board appreciate this we can sit down and reach a fair agreement,” McCarten concludes.

• On Saturday 2 August the strike committee has called an all up 24-hour strike of its members, starting from 10am Saturday till 10am Sunday.

• A rally will be held under the SkyTower from noon till 2pm on Saturday. A 24-hour picket will also be maintained. The union is relaxed about the company using management and non-union staff during this period as at this stage the union members are more interested in sending the message rather than closing the casino.

• Whilst there will be an all up 24 hour strike every fortnight, there will also be rolling departmental and shift strikes every day until 1 January 2009 or until there is a settlement.


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