Food Processing workers at Inghams chicken processing plant in Wiri, Auckland, have just finished three days of full strike action after walking off the job over frustrating wage negotiations and missing backpay in a protest that some have dubbed the ‘McNugget Strike’ due to its potential effects on the supply of chicken pieces to McDonalds and other fast food restaurants, FIRST Union said today.
Eighteen FIRST Union members began picketing outside the Inghams plant on Tuesday and have been demonstrating throughout the community over the last week. The company’s most recent offer of a 2.4% rise excludes backpay accrued since the last Collective Agreement expired at the end of May, and includes clawbacks to hours of work that would see workers required to be available on an ad hoc rostering system over 7 days rather than working regularly rostered fulltime hours over 5 days, as in the current arrangement. Pay rates for workers at the Inghams plant range from near minimum wage to around $21 per hour, which is not considered a living wage.
FIRST Union organiser Mark Muller said members were more than disappointed by the offer and the company’s response to negotiations, and that strike action would likely affect the supply of chicken products to fast food restaurants like McDonalds, Burger King and Wendy’s, which could mean shortages in some parts of the country over the coming weeks. The plant also supplies chicken products to many other major supermarket chains, restaurants and food producers throughout the country.
"There’s a feeling that the company aren’t really listening to the workers’ claims, and they absolutely resist the requirement to be available seven days a week when they should rightfully be able to expect some much-earned downtime," said Mr Muller.
"Clawbacks like this keep workers feeling like their jobs are insecure, and they cause unnecessary stress for people who often work more than 50 hours per week as it is."
"To add insult to injury, managers at Inghams have instructed financial staff not to pay out the workers’ Christmas Club funds until the 20th of December, which they have been personally investing in throughout the year and had hoped to use to buy presents for their families."
"This kind of mean-spirited and punitive action during tense negotiations just makes things worse, and it has really annoyed and energised the striking workers."