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Speech to Sanfords workers - Kevin Campbell

Embargoed to Saturday 14 July 2001

Speech to striking Sanfords workers

Kevin Campbell, Alliance MP

Saturday 14 July 2001 Speeches outside WINZ office, Strathallan St, Town Centre, Timaru, 11am.

Thank you for inviting me to speak to you today.

First let me acknowledge the difficulties and hardship you are experiencing. Three weeks on strike is a long time. While it is very unfortunate that you have had to suffer this hardship, your commitment and solidarity under difficult circumstances is commendable.

I saw a comment in the Timaru Herald this week from your colleague and delegate Gary Butterfield who has been with Sanford for 20 years. He said that 'at the end of the day we're doing it for the kids and everyone out there in low paying jobs'. These are noble causes.

The Alliance supports you in fighting for the improved living standards of low paid workers, their families and their communities.

And we wholeheartedly support the rights of all workers to a living wage and a fair go in employment negotiations.

Unfortunately, there are still some employers in this country who still need to be reminded that we are no longer working under the tyrannical Employment Contracts Act which removed the concept of fairness from the bargaining process and gave excessive power to the employer. Under that legislation thousands of workers found themselves in a 'take-it or leave-it' situation with no support from the law for a fair and just negotiation process.

The Alliance has fought hard against the Employment Contracts Act since its conception until its repeal and made a strong contribution to the development of the Employment Relations Act, which now replaces it.

The new Employment Relations Act has brought back some of the most essential rights for workers --the right to good faith bargaining, the right to collective contracts, including multi-employer agreements, and the right to strike. It also restores the important position of unions in workplace relations.

Under the Employment Relations Act you are entitled to strike as part of encouraging negotiations. It would not be right therefore for a company to say that you could not return to work unless you could guarantee that there would be no further industrial action. It is your right to strike during negotiations especially if the employer has not taken due consideration of your position in the negotiations.

In my book, good faith bargaining does not include sitting in separate rooms during informal talks between a union and an employer. Good faith bargaining means the employer must come to the table with a realistic offer, which shows they have seriously considered the employees requests, such as your own requests for a multi-site collective agreement with your colleagues at the Bluff site and for a decent wage increase.

I've noted that the Service and Food Workers Union say Sanfords is New Zealand's second biggest fishing company. I've also noted that they have registered a profit of $54 million for the year, and just this week announced they have bought two purse seine trawlers for $35 million.

It is good that they are expanding their business, which will hopefully lead to more jobs and a stronger local economy. However, it is also important for them to remember that without your hard work, they would not be a successful business.

Sanfords list five reasons for the success of their very long standing business on their website. One of these reasons is, and I quote, "generations of loyal and dedicated employees that have served through the company's history."

Well it is good to see that they recognise your value on their website. The Alliance supports you in getting them to recognise your value with a collective, multi-site agreement and a fair and reasonable wage.

Sanfords are obviously doing well out of your work. If they were not, it may be a different story. But with a profit of $54 million I believe that there must be room to consider raising hourly wage rates so that they are at least level with other South Island fisheries workers. That would only be fair in my estimation.

It would be shameful for a well established, successful company to pay their workers less than its competitors. And it would be shameful if full time workers of such a company are having to top up their wages with income support.

Considering that Sanfords North Island workers have a multi-site agreement, there doesn't appear to be any reason for Sanfords to oppose a multi-site agreement for the South Island as well.

The Alliance strongly supports workers in the same industries receiving the same wages and conditions.

I want to remind people that it is your right to strike to support your position in employment negotiations. Under the new Employment Relations Act this is a legitimate and reasonable thing to do to encourage your employer to negotiate. It is also your right to chose to negotiate for a multi-site collective agreement.

May I again recognise the struggle and hardship that this situation is causing your families and community and hope that the situation is worked out as soon as possible.

Finally, the Alliance wholeheartedly supports you in working together to ensure workers are protected from unreasonable conditions and pay rates. Let me assure you that we will continue to work for the improved living standards of low paid workers, their families and their communities both inside the coalition and at the next election.


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