Kiribati workers, members of Northern AWUNZ, fight redundancies and racism in Warkworth

The press release below was issued today (7/9/11) by the Northern Amalgamated Workers Union  which is in a redundancy dispute with Southern Paprika Limited. We note that the RSE policy is external to the union.

Media Release: Kiribati workers fight horticulture redundancies in Warkworth

For immediate publication

Workers at capsicum grower Southern Paprika Limited in Warkworth are being threatened with 13 redundancies, announced by the Company on Monday 5 September. The union on site, the Northern Amalgamated Workers Union has called for all the redundancies to be scrapped on the basis that no compelling justification has been put forward by SPL.

The Company admits that it is profitable, and that there is no financial case for the job cuts, citing instead “efficiencies”.

“At the same time as scrapping production jobs, the Company is proposing to create an additional HR position,” states union organiser Mike Kyriazopoulos. “How can getting rid of the people who pick, grade and pack the fruit, while making the company more top-heavy lead to greater efficiency?

Nearly all the workers come from Kiribati and Tuvalu, have put down roots in the local community, and will struggle to find alternative employment in the Warkworth area. The Company are proposing to bring in 16 temporary migrant workers under the Recognised Seasonal Employer (RSE) scheme in October.

“If a position is made redundant, only to be filled by an RSE worker, the Company risks violating its Agreement to Recruit under the RSE scheme,” says Kyriazopoulos. “Under RSE, they are required to ‘take all reasonable steps to recruit and train New Zealanders for available positions before trying to recruit non-New Zealand citizen or non resident workers.’ We will be taking this up at a political level.

“SPL claims that it is ‘carrying’ too many employees. But in the 12 years of its existence, the company has grown from 2.5 hectares to 14 hectares today, thanks to the efforts of its staff. It is the workers who have carried SPL on their shoulders.”

Notes:

  • The union has challenged the ability of the company to run a fair process for redundancy after the manner  in which it dealt with an incident involving a racist text on a company phone earlier in the year. A former Cadet Manager at SPL described the content of the text as being: “The best Christmas present I could have would be a black man swinging from a tree”.

No-one responsible for the text message was disciplined in the subsequent investigation by the company. However, two union members were disciplined for trying to conduct their own investigation into the incident. The union has referred the matter to the Human Rights Commission.

For further information, contact Mike Kyriazopoulos on 021 288 5601 or michael@awunz.org.nz

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