Casino strikes continue into third month

– Laurie Garnett

Auckland’s SkyCity casino workers have been striking since August. In the last issue of the Spark we looked at the creative tactics of the strikers who were in for the long haul. With the company not budging from its 4 percent offer, workers are keeping the pressure on the management.

In the twenty or so different casino departments union members use varying tactics. Some go out on half-hour strikes, some organise a whole shift of strike action. Others turn up to work late, while some leave early. If the company increases staffing levels in anticipation of strikes the union members stay on duty to maximise the cost to the company. When negotiations at the end of September ended with the company refusing to improve its offer, 80 staff immediately walked off the job. The strikes are called by rank and file union members with the element of surprise being a key tool. As 40 percent of the workforce is not unionised the method of intermittent skirmishing is favoured over attempts at all out strikes.

The new management team which was appointed earlier this year had hoped to quickly make their mark, but now their plans for the business have been stymied by a culture of defiance.

If they expected to win over hearts and minds with a few pizzas and movie passes they should know better by now. The strikes are about having decent wages and recognition of service. Save the pizzas for the managers who have to get out of bed in the middle of the night when a strike is called.

Casino workers play the wild card

How do you take on a powerful company when over a third of the staff are not in the union? Laurie Garnet finds union members at Auckland’s SkyCity casino are coming up with creative solutions.

SkyCity casino is on course to make $110 million profit this year. So when the company offered a 4% increase to staff, with new staff starting on the minimum wage of $12 an hour, it was flatly rejected by union members.

There are two unions at the casino – SEA-Unite with nearly 1000 members, and the Service and Food Workers Union with around 300 members. They wanted a 5% increase and recognition of service for longer serving staff. They voted to take strike action and to keep up the fight up for the next six months if necessary.

Barely had the vote been counted (97% rejecting the company offer) when workers started walking off the job.

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Westfield bans union organiser from mall

Auckland Unite Union organiser and Workers Party member Jared Phillips talks to The Spark.

What’s the background to this trespass?

Unite union has begun a campaign to get a new set of union agreements in the cinema chains, and to continue re-unionising that industry. The offer from Skycity Cinemas, which is a large chain, was appalling. If we agreed with the company offer, the supervisors, projectionists and gold class staff would dramatically lose their wage relativity against the minimum wage. Of equal importance, the cinema attendants, who are the majority of staff, would get no service pay and no improvements to their security of work.

A trespass order was issued against me during the St. Lukes strike, which was the second strike in the campaign. The trespass was issued by Westfield St. Lukes, which is the firm that operates that mall and many malls in which Skycity Cinemas operates complexes.

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Popcorn Strikes Hit Skycity Cinemas

– article from the upcoming June 2008 issue of Cinema Worker

Photo: Socialist Aoteaora

Strikes will be spread around the country until the employers offer experienced-based pay for cinema attendants, appropriate rates for supervisors, and secure hours of work with a progressive rostering protocol. The Skycity Cinema offer has been for cinema attendants to start on minimum wage and stay on minimum wage, and for supervisors and projectionists to loose their relativity with other staff. This was rejected and staff voted to take action.

On Tuesday 10 June at 6pm 27 Skycity Cinema workers formed a picket line at the Henderson complex on a busy intersection. Nine of these workers were striking, other Henderson complex workers who were not on shift turned out, as well as four workers from the Broadway and Massey complexes. The strike was taken on the cheap-ticket night and lasted for 80 minutes.

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