Workers vote to strike for the first time at Fisher & Paykel
6 September, 2011
Workers vote to strike for the first time at Fisher & Paykel Healthcare
Iconic kiwi company Fisher and Paykel Healthcare is choosing not to take the opportunity to lead New Zealand manufacturing out of recession and boost wages, instead it is offering miserly pay increases, according to the Unions who organise nearly 900 staff at the company’s Highbrook plant.
F & P Healthcare production, maintenance and distribution workers, who are organised by the EPMU and NDU, voted overwhelmingly to reject the company’s latest collective agreement settlement offer and have today issued 14 days’ notice of strike action. This is the first time that F & P Healthcare workers have voted to go on strike in the company’s history.
“F & P Healthcare’s offer amounts to a pay cut when you take into account how high inflation is significantly eroding wages,” says Rachel Mackintosh, EPMU Director of Organising. “The company’s financial performance over the last year does not justify giving its workers what amounts to a pay cut, especially when there have been significant productivity gains with the workforce shrinking by 10% over the same period.”
Negotiations for the renewal of the company-wide collective agreement have been going on for more than three months. EPMU and NDU members are negotiating for a 5.7% pay increase while the employer is offering 3% for 11 months followed by a further 2% for 11 months. The June quarter annualised CPI inflation figure was 5.3%.
Because F & P Healthcare is covered by the essential services provisions of the Employment Relations Act 2000, the Unions are required to give 14 days’ notice of industrial action. This notice was lodged with the company today and provides for a reduction in factory output.
The planned action is designed to ensure no health risk to company clients, but sends a strong message that Healthcare employees are prepared to take action for what is fair. The Unions cite escalating cost of living factors as the main reason behind their members’ rejection of the company wage offer.
“Members and their families are experiencing a never-ending round of increasing living costs. These include spiralling food bills as well as electricity, fuel and insurance costs. The company is making good profits and could choose to meet their employees’ reasonable expectations,” Ms Mackintosh says. “However, the unions remain open to settling the bargaining as soon as the company offers a fair wage increase.”