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Christchurch pallet workers living in dire straits as company continues to haul in big profits

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50 Christchurch workers who restore pallets for the distribution of many of New Zealand’s well-known products will be striking tomorrow over minimal pay and large pay variations between company work sites.

From 6:30am Monday (27th August) workers will picket the site at the CHEP NZ Service Centre, 95 Shands Road, Christchurch. Media are invited to attend.The crux of the pay problems:The CHEP Christchurch workers are on a starting rate of $16.56 with a majority of employees on around $17 dollars an hour.The employees would require an 11% pay rise to equalise with workers at CHEP’s Auckland site in Wiri. The company claims the Auckland members require more pay due to higher living costs however union members at its Penrose site (who’re under a separate collective agreement expiring in July next year) earn similar wages to the Christchurch workers. The Christchurch members are asking for only a $1.50 increase per hour in recognition of the fact it’s the same work. This has been rejected by the company.FIRST Union Christchurch Delegate Ian Burrett says the low pay is detrimental to the wellbeing of workers.“We have had people living in cars and makeshift homes and getting pneumonia because of their living situations. The turnover of staff down here is high because it’s not easy work and the pay is so low. It’s another case of the working poor. It’s just not right.”Mr Burrett says workers are struggling on low pay rates. “The pay rise we are asking for would cost the company about three days profit. We don’t think this is unfair when it’s making millions. It’s our hard labour that’s going into those profits and we are not being paid fairly.”He says it’s unfair the workers do the same work as Auckland yet are paid significantly less.“It’s about keeping up with the cost of living everywhere. Low pay rates just don’t cut it."FIRST Union Southern Secretary Paul Watson says the company needs to value its Christchurch workers, especially as the region is still recovering from its earthquakes.“Workers are still trying to get back on their feet down here. We need secure, fair paying jobs and we feel the current rates do not reflect that. They’re not asking for a massive pay rise, just one that reflects the work done.”“Same work, same pay, instead of pay rates all over the place.”

  • Source: A FirstUnion release