March industrial news roundup

In this month’s roundup:

Brackenridge workers step up their action

ASTE members to strike again 

AA workers reject offer 

Brackenridge workers step up their action

Last January, 140 support workers and nurses at Brackenridge Estate near Christchurch struck against low pay and severe understaffing. Workers told Spark reporters supporting the picket that 75-hour work weeks - with only one weekend off in six - are not uncommon.

Brackenridge Estate is a facility providing homes and care for people with intellectual disabilities. National Union of Public Employees (NUPE) and the NZ Nurses Organisation have been trying since September 2007 to renew their multi-union collective agreement. Most workers earn $14.50 an hour, with a starting rate of $13.34.

“Union members had hoped that the two-day strike would have persuaded the Ministry of Health to step in and provide the extra funding needed to settle the dispute,” said senior NUPE organiser Janice Gemmell.

“The employer group of which Brackenridge Estate is a member stated that the funding freeze placed on the sector by the Ministry of Health was to blame for the January industrial action.”

In face of this penny-pinching employer-government alliance, workers have voted for further industrial action including rolling strikes over seven weeks.

ASTE members to strike again

Workers at EastBay REAP (rural education activities programmes) based in Whakatane, Opotiki and Kawerau have resolved to take further strike action in protest at their employer’s failure to make any significant shift in their bargaining stance.

“Members went on strike last year for two and half days in an attempt to get a shift in their employer’s position,” said Association of Staff in Tertiary Education (ASTE) advocate, Jenny Chapman.

“We have made significant concessions in good faith to try and resolve this dispute. At some risk, given the attitude we have met to date, we have adopted the offer that was made in the mediation forum. These steps have resulted in minimal movement from the employer”.

Chapman said Eastbay REAP has huge cash reserves of around $1.6 million accumulated in the bank. “Let’s not forget that this money is public money which has been provided through government departments for the delivery of quality education and community development in the Eastbay region. Many of the staff employed by Eastbay REAP are on very low wages.”

Members have resolved to take strike action from Wednesday February 20.

AA workers reject offer

Automobile Association workers recently voted to reject the organisation’s latest pay offer, and succeeded in getting the AA to agree to mediation.

The offer, which included a 4% pay rise and no agreement to retain long-service leave, follows national strike action by more than 130 roadside technicians in December last year. It was rejected unanimously.

EPMU organiser Chris Rigby says mediation is scheduled for February 25.

“At mediation we’ll be focusing on sorting out the remaining issues like retaining the extra week’s service leave. The members are pretty determined on this one, and if the company refuses to come to the party we can’t rule out further industrial action.”

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