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Pak’n’Save Whakatane Workers To Strike Over Lowest Supermarket Wages In Bay Of Plenty

Workers at Pak’n’Save in Whakatane are taking strike action today over fruitless negotiations with the store owner and low wage rates that fall below comparable industry standards and represent the lowest supermarket wages in Whakatane and the lowest-paid Pak’n’Save in the Bay of Plenty region, FIRST Union said today.

FIRST Union members at Pak’n’Save will walk off the job from 1-3pm today after rejecting consistently unfair pay offers from store owner Andrew Soutar, who workers believe is taking an anti-union stance out of principle despite the business doing well financially and competitors and comparable stores paying significantly higher wages to staff in the same roles.

"This is another example of a supermarket that has profited wildly from Covid-19 buying behaviours while its staff have been working harder than ever for the same low wages and an owner who doesn’t seem to value their efforts," said Kirstin Miller, FIRST Union organiser.

"After bargaining for months, workers have been left with no other option but to strike and let the public know that they won’t be taken for a ride by this business owner anymore."

"The owner has repeatedly claimed that he can’t increase wages to match the market rate of a living wage as ‘Whakatane isn’t doing well’ - but of course it isn’t when full-time workers at the local supermarket are deliberately paid less than other stores in the same region."

"If the owner really wants to see a resilient Whakatane that is prepared for any future community outbreaks of Covid-19, the first thing he could do is ensure that Pak’n’Save workers are valued and paid fairly for the work they do - it will make a huge difference."

The strike action at Pak’n’Save Whakatane is the second at a Foodstuffs store in the last month, following a walk-out earlier this month in Richmond. Workers at the Whakatane store have previously taken strike action in 2018 over the same issue, which has never been resolved.

Ms Miller says the variability in wages around New Zealand is a consequence of Foodstuffs’ owner-operator model, in which individual store owners negotiate distinct Collective Agreements with their staff.

"This contrasts with Foodstuffs’ main competitor, Countdown, who have a national agreement in place that ensures consistent pay and conditions around the county," said Ms Miller.

"If you work at Pak’n’Save, you are acutely aware of this disparity and want to negotiate a better deal with your employer - it’s common-sense."

"You don’t expect to meet a brick wall, but that is unfortunately becoming more and more common with ideologically-driven and obstructive Foodstuffs store owners like Mr Soutar."

© Scoop Media

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