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Oh that’s where they get their profits from!

Oh that’s where they get their profits from!

Inequality: a kick in the guts for hard working New Zealanders

Today the National Business Review released its Rich List. For the first time, the combined value of the rich listers has tipped over the $100 billion dollar mark, that’s up 26% from last year’s list.

The other side of this story is not such a happy one.

Many of the 34 newcomers to the list have made their fortunes in the grocery business, a generation of men who’re now worth around 60 million each.

The problem being that the average supermarket worker is on minimum or minimal wages. It is clear minimum wages are not enough to live off and cause many families financial hardship. These owners have the ability to lift wages, and to lift the struggle from these families, but thus far they have not.

FIRST Union, which represents retail workers, negotiates for workers’ wages and conditions in supermarkets. North Island supermarkets have to be negotiated individually with each owner. Here’s how a few pan out:

Glen Innes Pak n Save owner, who’s worth an estimated $65 million, is currently paying one of the lowest rates as far as collective agreements go in Auckland supermarkets.

The Union is currently bargaining at Hastings Pak n Save where workers recently had to resort to a strike action following a miserable offer, several pickets have also been held at the store. At mediation, the owner offered a 0% pay rise for the 2018 year.

At Whakatane Pak n Save, where the Union has been bargaining for the last few months, rates on offer do not keep relativity with the minimum wage.

The story doesn’t get any better for the South Island. There’s a long-standing legal dispute with Foodstuffs South Island stores as to whether supermarkets are obligated to collectively bargain with the Union.

FIRST Union has also been working through several cases of bullying, intimidation and discrimination at many of these stores.

FIRST Union’s Mandeep Bela says inequality is a problem for New Zealand and enough is enough.

“When we have supermarket owners banking some of the largest profits while paying staff some of the lowest wages in the country it just doesn’t make sense, how have we got to this?”

Mr Bela says the owners making the most are the stores that are notoriously difficult to deal with at the negotiation table.
It’s not about trying to stop profits, it’s about ensuring people have enough so they are not struggling, this is what the Living Wage provides. Either the owners don’t see this correlation, or don’t care.”

He encourages supermarket owners throughout New Zealand to take a long, hard look at their actions, and points them towards the workers initiative that is the Worth It campaign.

If they could only realise they’re making millions at the expense of hard working and often struggling kiwis, they could then take a look at the campaign our members have come up with that sets guidelines for companies who would like to be more ethical employers. It asks for the Living Wage of $20.55 an hour, requests workers are given enough hours to live on, and that pay grades are relative to the rising minimum wage.”

He says it’s time that these store owners pay fair wages and conditions to its workers who have contributed immensely to their pile of assets.

“If they don’t, the story of inequality in New Zealand is only going to get worse. Long gone are the days of an equal New Zealand society but it doesn’t mean it has to stay this way.”

Mr Bela says the Worth It campaign is already having an impact in the retail sector with Living Wage agreements at Huckleberry grocers, Bunnings and Smith City to name a few.

You can be wealthy and pay your workers the Living Wage, it doesn’t have to be one or the other, and it’s time these companies moved with the times.”


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