Workers at Pak’n’Save Richmond and New World Centre City in Dunedin are taking industrial action today as part of their struggle for living wages and better employment conditions, FIRST Union said today.
After waiting over three years to sign a collective agreement that would enable comparable pay and conditions to their colleagues in the North Island, workers at the Foodstuffs supermarkets have today issued a strike notice informing their managers that they will be distributing leaflets to customers while at work this afternoon, outlining their struggle to secure what many would see as standard employment protections in a collective agreement.
Strike action takes place today at Pak’n’Save Richmond and New World City Centre in Dunedin. Workers at Pak’n’Save Invercargill are also yet to sign a collective agreement despite years waiting.
Sonja Mitchell, a FIRST Union organiser in Dunedin, said that workers in these supermarkets describe feeling immense frustration and disillusionment at not having their effort and service fairly recognised over years:
"There are people of all ages and walks of life working in these supermarkets, and they are struggling to pay basic living costs for their kids and working extra hours away from their families just to earn enough to scrape by," said Ms Mitchell.
The parent company cooperative, Foodstuffs South Island, states on their website that:
"Corporate social responsibility is central to our approach to business, from board level to checkout. This is demonstrated by the way we treat our people, the local community and the environment."
FIRST Union Secretary for Retail, Finance and Commerce, Tali Williams, noted that FIRST Union members have already won living wages at Countdown (nationwide), Bunnings, Kmart, The Warehouse and several individual Foodstuffs stores in the North Island, as well as in other retail brands: "The idea is not controversial," said Ms Williams.
"There is no reason why these three Foodstuffs stores can’t negotiate with their staff, and no reason for them to oppose a living wage on principle and deny workers a voice through bargaining - it is the de facto industry rate in 2020."
Ms Williams said that workers were losing faith after three years waiting to negotiate a very ordinary collective agreement:
"It’s easy to see why so many supermarket workers would like to see a single nationwide collective agreement across a whole company - as at Countdown - or better yet, Fair Pay Agreements that set minimum wages and entitlements across the sector."