E tū says it’s a strong message from the public to Sistema, which the union understands is struggling to find staff after revelations of the low pay and long hours.
At Sistema, most members earn the minimum wage and are required to work a 60-hour week.
E tū organiser, Fala Haulangi says a widely circulated photo of the burnt and blistered hands of a Sistema worker has also exposed the poor working conditions.
“People who work at Sistema often leave work exhausted and in tears,” says Fala.
“However, our members are buoyed by the support they’ve had from the many thousands of people who have signed these letters.”
Fala says the union believes the sweatshop conditions may now be affecting production and that it has been told Sistema is 50 workers short of what’s needed.
“We’ve told Sistema something has to be done, and it looks like workers are voting with their feet,” she says.
“This is their busy season, but we’ve heard machines are sitting idle which need to be operating to fill orders. Drew Muirhead needs to know there is a cost to the low pay and long hours.”
Delegates at the plant agree.
“If they want to hire more people, they’re going to have to improve wages and conditions,” says E tū delegate and Sistema worker, Maria Latu.
“Because now, people hate coming to work. They say it is like working in a jail. The CEO needs to think about that and do something, or he’ll turn around and there won’t be anyone there.”