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Kiwifruit Workers At Seeka Call For Secure Wages In New Agreement

Workers at Seeka, the largest kiwifruit producer in New Zealand and Australia, have written to the company to seek assurances during bargaining for a new Collective Agreement that there will be no wage reductions at the end of the harvest in June.

"Seeka is refusing to secure workers’ wages at the current rate of $24, and we are concerned that a $1.25 ‘seasonal allowance’ that the company has been paying will be withdrawn at the end of the main season," said Anita Rosentreter, FIRST Union organiser.

"They have publicly claimed that no one who works there earns less than $24 per hour, but during bargaining they have refused to guarantee that wage during a difficult period where the cost of living has increased and people are working harder than ever in orchards and pack-houses."

"There are indications that the company is simply waiting for the border to re-open so that once the season ends and demand for labour drops, wages can be dragged backwards in time for the next harvest, when there are likely to be more workers from overseas in the country."

Seeka CEO Michael Franks has said that the ‘seasonal allowance’ of $1.25 that makes up a $24 per hour wage will not be shaved off, but Ms Rosentreter reports that during bargaining, the company has refused to put it into the union contract. FIRST Union has also sought a higher pay rate for those with longer service in the industry.

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FIRST Union is also calling for recognition of workers with long service, and to extend the coverage to include all of Seeka’s workforce.

"At the moment, someone who starts working for the company this year can earn the same rate as someone who has been there for twenty years - it’s another symptom of a casualised industry where career progression is sacrificed for the sake of cheap convenience," said Ms Rosentreter.

"We’re also fighting for this new Collective Agreement to apply to all employees of the company rather than just a small group of permanent employees based in Kerikeri, but Seeka does not appear to want to improve conditions for workers nationally."

"It’s important that we improve wages and conditions across a sector that has a poor reputation for its treatment of workers in New Zealand despite making millions every year from their labour."

"Seeka is an industry leader and should be setting a good example for others to follow."

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