Supermarket workers protest for living wage

Staff at Dunedin’s New World Centre City store took limited industrial action on Christmas Eve, protesting about the lack of "meaningful" collective agreement bargaining.

First Union members at the store joined their counterparts at Richmond Pak’nSave in wearing stickers, stating "We deserve the living wage".

The demonstration aimed to make the shopping public aware of the issue.

First Union regional secretary Paul Watson said union members in both stores had been in bargaining with store owners for more than three years, to conclude a collective agreement that had decent pay rates written into it.

"During this period, the Dunedin New World store has changed ownership, but sadly nothing has changed in terms of how workers are being treated.

"Minimum pay and conditions, and maximum profits are the name of the game," he said.

"It’s time for these wealthy store owners to stop being miserable grinches all year round and start paying their workers a decent living wage.

"It’s disgraceful that these owners think it’s OK for workers to live off subsistence wages while creaming substantial profits."

He said consumers needed to start questioning these store owners about why they paid the same price for supermarket products as in the North Island, but South Island workers were paid so much less.

First Union recently settled collective agreements with five Pak’nSave stores in the North Island which offered between $19.50 and $19.80 for the next year.

Those rates were expected to increase to between $20.15 and $20.75 in early 2021.

"In contrast, Richmond Pak’nSave is offering a printed rate of 5c above the minimum wage of $17.70, and Dunedin New World is offering much the same but with some possibility of earning up to 50c an hour extra, but only if performance standards are high enough.

"Spot the difference. Not only are the South Island workers disadvantaged, but so are customers.

"Comparisons with North and South Island stores show same prices for food but that doesn’t translate to the same wages for the workers."

He said South Island Foodstuffs supermarkets were taking a greater margin because their wage costs were lower and profits higher.

Foodstuffs New Zealand corporate affairs and corporate social responsibility head Antoinette Laird said the store owners supported their employees’ rights to express their opinions, and declined to comment further.

john.lewis@odt.co.nz


 

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