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Pie dispute heats up: Workers strike again

May 2nd

That Big Ben pie that Kiwis love is regrettably brought to you by low wages.

The workers at George Weston Foods in Wiri, who make New Zealand’s iconic Big Ben pies, are going on strike again. The two day strike follows a 24 - hour strike held last month over a pay offer that just doesn’t cut it.

The strike will start at 6:30 pm tonight and end at 6:30 pm on Monday next week (they don’t work on the weekend). The strike will also include a picket from 7 am tomorrow outside the plant at 78 Kerrs Road, Wiri. Media are invited to attend to speak to the workers.

FIRST Union represents approximately 30 staff, a majority, in the pie department at George Weston Foods in Wiri and has been in bargaining with the company since September last year.

The company has not increased their pay offer at all since the strike actions begun, despite the fact that the minimum wage would overtake the two bottom rates in the collective agreement by the end of the term. The workers are paid between the minimum wage of $17.70 and just over $21 an hour. Most are on $18-$19 and some have 20+ years of service.

George Weston Foods is owned by the Weston family, of Canada and the UK, who have a recorded wealth of more than NZ$19 billion. The company also manufactures Tip Top, Bürgen and Ploughmans bread, and Golden crumpets. It is one of the two main players in New Zealand’s bread market.

FIRST Union spokesperson Anita Rosentreter says the members are escalating their actions in a bid to send a strong message to their employer. “George Weston’s offer is insulting and does not recognise the hard work their employees do. This company is in la-la land if they truly think 2% on already-low wages is acceptable.”

Ms Rosentreter says a fair wage increase is needed to lift financial pressure off families. “Workers who’re paid less than the Living Wage struggle to support families, particularly in our main centres. A decent wage increase would drastically improve their lives. George Weston’s owners must do what’s right, they must lift wages.”


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