Industrial News

Government leaves Oyang crew uncompensated

A year after the crew of the Oyang 75 jumped ship in Lyttelton alleging mistreatment including physical and sexual abuse aboard the Korean owned vessel, the government has stated officially that sorting out unpaid wages is a matter for the shipping agent. Most members of the Indonesian crew received annual incomes of between $6,700 and $11,600, well below the New Zealand minimum wage despite a guarantee that they would receive it.

This announcement could affect as many as 97 fishermen. In May the government legislated a ban on foreign fishing vessels that will be transitioned over the next four years, citing the issues that have occurred with the treatment of workers, as well as safety (another boat, the Oyang 70 sunk last year claiming the lives of 6 fishermen) and other concerns such around fishing regulations. Prior to the ban foreign chartered ships which catch fish worth $650 million a year.

Wages barely keeping up with inflation

The Labour Cost Index (LCI) released last month and representing the year to June shows that wages and salaries are no further ahead compared to inflation than they were six months ago, and 2.5 per cent behind where they were in March 2009.

“Inflation is low, and wages certainly aren’t pushing up prices. But the economy is going nowhere with unemployment remaining high and at current settings likely to remain there for a long time.” Said Council of Trade Unions (CTU) economist Bill Rosenberg. “Most union members on collective employment agreements are getting increases in their pay rates, though there is a big range in the size of the increases.”

“In the EPMU, the largest private sector union, for example the big Metals multi-employer collective agreement covering over 1000 workers in over 100 engineering and manufacturing firms, has been settled at a 2.8 per cent increase in the first year, guaranteeing all those workers that rise. Progressive supermarket employees in FIRST union are in their second year of a 5 per cent annual increase”

“Many state sector employees are getting much less often between 1 and 2 per cent because of the government’s actions in suppressing pay increases, meaning many have fallen behind the increased cost of living. The LCI for the public sector rose only 0.3 per cent in the June quarter compared to 0.5 per cent for the private sector.”

Cuts in rail workforce will impact on network

According to the Rail and Maritime Transport Union (RMTU) New Zealand’s rail workforce remains deeply concerned about the impact of job cuts on their ability to safely maintain the network.

“KiwiRail’s recent history of cost cutting and contracting out has been disastrous, Rail and Maritime Transport Union General Secretary Wayne Butson said.

“Chinese locomotives lie around awaiting repairs. In February one in ten of the Chinese built flat top wagons were out of the fleet undergoing repairs. And sleepers from Peru are rotting.”

“No one was held accountable for these problems. Following the first major derailment or operating incident linked to the network’s infrastructure, Chairman John Spencer and CEO Jim Quinn must be held accountable for these staffing cuts.”

“This exercise is not based on reducing staff to a number which can maintain the track safely in a fit for purpose state.”

“It is an accounting exercise to save $200 million and meeting head count targets, nothing more.”

Lincoln University kitchen staff denied eight hour day

The kitchen and residential staff at Lincoln University’s Telford campus have recently applied to join the Tertiary Education Union (TEU) collective employment agreement. However, Lincoln says that if they do join the Services Staff Collective Agreement it still will not grant them the overtime or penal rates that it offers to all its other general staff. It will also not extend them the benefit of an eight-hour day or 40-hour week to which other services staff are entitled.

Lincoln’s management team argues that it cannot afford to allow these staff the same employment protections as other staff while it waits to see how much government funding it will get to compensate for its earthquake damage.

TEU’s deputy secretary Nanette Cormack says that this is a small group of workers, who happen to be amongst the lowest paid at Lincoln, and the amount of money required to give these workers equity is not significant in the overall Lincoln budget.

“Telford’s kitchen and residential staff are a crucial part of Lincoln’s accommodation for its many rural students who could not otherwise study. There is no reason to treat these staff worse than all other general staff at Lincoln.”

Network for migrant workers launched

On the 19th of August at the NZ Diversity Action Programme held at the Aotea Centre in Auckland FIRST Union launched UNEMIG: Union Network of Migrants. “Migrant workers are frequently victims of under legal minimum wage pay, abuse, discrimination, bullying and harassment in the workplace,” said Robert Reid, FIRST Union General Secretary. “Unions exist to protect and advance the collective interests of workers, and it is our duty to make sure that migrant workers’ rights are protected,”

Dennis Maga, FIRST Union UNEMIG coordinator, said the network is assisting migrant workers with employment and immigration matters, holding education events and supporting migrant workers to network with others.

“Migrant workers don’t complain about their employers for fear of losing their job and working visa. They don’t want to be deported, so aren’t able to speak out. They mostly only react to their exploitation once dismissed – and it is very expensive for them to get legal support. By forming UNEMIG, there is now a body that can investigate exploitative practises and support migrant workers to access the decent work and conditions they are entitled to,” Dennis Maga said.

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