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Bus Drivers And Supermarket Workers Will Welcome Fair Pay Agreements

Today’s long-awaited announcement that Fair Pay Agreements (FPAs) are on the way for historically underpaid workforces like bus drivers, supermarket staff, healthcare workers and cleaners is a welcome landmark and could be the beginning of reclaiming those industries from a legacy of low pay and precarity, FIRST Union said today.

FIRST Union represents bus drivers and supermarket workers nationally and will likely be beginning the FPA processes outlined by the Government after legislation passes through Parliament. Secretaries of FIRST Union outlined the potential impact of FPAs on the separate halves of the union’s membership:

"One of the major issues in bargaining fair wages with supermarkets - specifically Foodstuffs - has been the disparate approaches taken by franchise managers in different stores around the country," said Tali Williams, FIRST Union Secretary for Retail and Finance.

"Because wages aren’t bargained nationally, you end up with a situation where people do the exact same job in different parts of New Zealand for the same brand but are paid vastly different rates."

"As an example, the Pak’n’Save Richmond branch has been "negotiating" a Collective Agreement for almost five years with their workers, repeatedly offering them wages worse than they're currently on in order to frustrate them while delaying the inevitable."

"Fair Pay Agreements will finally provide a pathway to end this kind of ‘surface bargaining’ and restore consistent incomes and wages rises for supermarket workers, regardless of where they live or who they work for."

"Our 'Healthy Staffing, Healthy Stores' campaign has focused on safe staffing levels, secure hours and living wages in retail, and the FPA framework could go a long way to tackling all three issues systemically."

Jared Abbott, FIRST Union Secretary for Transport, Logistics and Manufacturing, said the bus industry was in crisis and FPAs could be the way forward on gridlocked wages and cavalier operators.

"This is necessary and long overdue in the bus sector due to the conduct of private operators and deliberate attempts made to drive down wages to bid lowest for council contracts," said Mr Abbott.

"FPAs could restore some industrial harmony to the sector too, ending years of repetitive strikes and lockouts and ensuring bus operators behave with consistency and fairness across Aotearoa."

But Mr Abbott also cautioned that the issue of contracting must be addressed immediately to avoid exploitation of existing loopholes by "predatory" employers in the wider employment world.

"Business will already have a strong voice during this process, so it’s important we deal with the fundamental issues first rather than just trying to save the status quo, which isn’t working," said Mr Abbott.

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