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Clothing Workers Looking for Action from Summit

Media Release: National Distribution Union
Thursday February 26, 2009

Clothing Workers Looking for Action from Job Summit

Unions want the job summit to fix government procurement processes that have handed an Australian multinational the power to dress local troops in Chinese made uniforms.

The National Distribution Union (NDU) represents clothing workers at Levin’s Swazi Apparel which is affected by recent changes to Australian Yakka’s sub-contracting approach. NDU National Secretary Laila Harré says unions have been pushing for an overhaul over the government procurement system in pre-summit talks and will push hard for a commitment tomorrow.

“Meanwhile the Government needs to stop this contract going to China,” said Laila Harré.

“The biggest threat to national security right now is unemployment. Swazi is waiting for sign-off from the New Zealand Defence Force. The Minister, Wayne Mapp, is saying he’s impotent. John Key demonstrated with his comments about Fisher & Paykel that he doesn’t buy the purist line that says without a clothing company to run or sewing jobs to do these owners and workers can simply relocate their capital and labour to more viable industries.”

“This is a clothing manufacturer. These women make clothes. As Swazi owner Davey Hughes has put it, promising infrastructure spending is terrific, but the ladies who work here have long forgotten how to push wheelbarrows and pour hotmix.”

“Whereas every other country takes a pragmatic approach to applying international trade rules and balances the risks of sailing close to the wind with the benefits of keeping the work local, New Zealand seems more concerned with being toasted on the WTO cocktail circuit than putting toast on the table in our provincial centres.”

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Unions are calling for Government to take back responsibility for large procurement contracts such as the one Yakka has for military uniforms.

“The only organisation that we have here that’s big enough to even-up the contest is the government itself. Small and medium sized businesses in New Zealand aren’t asking for special treatment. They just want a fair go,” says Laila Harré.

“These women make our soldiers. Let’s them keep making their clothes.”


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