Next week, Tip Top bread workers are going back into pay negotiations with their employer for the first time since their strike in 2019 caused a national bread shortage.
FIRST Union represents the majority of employees at George Weston Foods’ two Auckland sites, in Otahuhu and Manukau, which are covered by the Collective Agreement being renegotiated. Union members met last week and set a mandate for no worker to receive any less than the living wage, which will be $22.75 from 1 September 2021. A petition signed by members will be delivered to the company on the first day of bargaining next week.
"Despite last week's Commerce Commission report confirming our supermarket prices are sky-high compared to other countries, workers in our food supply chains are often paid less than the living wage," says FIRST Union spokesperson Anita Rosentreter.
"Tip Top workers are also aiming to improve on the overtime rates they won through their strike in 2019. It was a major win, but there’s still some room for improvement as these workers regularly work 50 hours a week, sometimes up to 60."
This comes as FIRST Union launches its new Food Made Fair campaign, which aims to promote decent work in food supply chains. It has three pillars: living wages, job security and local sourcing.
FIRST Union covers workers in all parts of the country's food supply chains, from orchards and hot houses, to processing and manufacturing, transport and distribution, and supermarkets. The campaign seeks to create opportunities for those workers to build solidarity and work together to make gains.
In late 2019, George Weston Foods’ workers took strike action after a prolonged and contentious bargaining round, which resulted in a national bread shortage. Workers say some of the issues they raised at the time were resolved, but others were not, including getting agreement around living wages.
"These workers are passionate about feeding New Zealanders, but they sometimes can’t even afford to put food on their own tables - it’s just wrong," said Ms Rosentreter.
"Food is the essence of life and the workers who handle it deserve respect, decent work and living wages."