Breadline wages contributed to Muliaga tragedy

- Daphna Whitmore

The Muliaga inquiry doesn’t seem to be factoring in the role of the terrible pay that the family were trying to survive on. Below is the press release that Unite issued shortly after Mrs Muliaga’s death (her husband worked at a hotel that Unite organises). The Herald accused me of trying to use the tragedy to further a cause, implying that I was being callous. But Mrs Muliaga’s nephew turned up at the picket and was very supportive of the strike.

Muliaga’s workmates strike against poverty wages

On Monday at 4pm, workers at Centra Airport Hotel in South Auckland are taking strike action in support of a 5 percent pay increase. This is their third strike in as many weeks after pay negotiations stalled.

The wages are so low people cannot not make ends meet,” says Unite union organiser Daphna Whitmore. “The dire situation was tragically highlighted when Mr Muliuga’s wife died after their electricity was cut,” she said.

Lopa Muliaga works in the kitchen at the Centra and, like many hotel staff, earns just $12 an hour. “He joined a picket outside the hotel on May 29. Lopa was not rostered on but came to support his workmates,” says Whitmore. “Later that day his wife died after the power was cut at their home.”

While the wages are minimal, the hotel is spending $10 million on refurbishments. Many workers are in debt and really struggling, says Whitmore.

On Monday the Justice Department is holding a conference at the hotel. The conference focus is on Pacific issues.

Unite members say a living wage would be the best sort of justice. They are calling on supporters to join the picket.

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