Battle for a living wage: Redundancy leaves truckies stressed

By Simon Collins

Foodstuffs truck drivers Murphy (Junior) Ipo and James Canty are being made redundant next month. Photo / Richard Robinson
Foodstuffs truck drivers Murphy (Junior) Ipo and James Canty are being made redundant next month. Photo / Richard Robinson

About 40 truck drivers serving Pak'nSave and New World supermarkets will lose their jobs this year when they are replaced by owner-drivers.

The change will give their ultimate employer, Foodstuffs Auckland, flexibility to pay owner-drivers and a subcontractor only when they need them. The company will no longer have to pay drivers when they are sick or when their truck breaks down or when they can't work for any other reason.

As company spokeswoman Antoinette Shallue puts it: "This move is being made to provide further flexibility and efficiency in our supply chain."

But for Murphy (Junior) Ipo, 60, who has worked from the company's Mt Roskill depot since 1991, it is a rude shock. "I was thinking of working closer to 70," he says.

"When we heard we were getting our redundancies, I didn't think I would take it the way I did. I was pretty stressed."

Mr Ipo has an 11-year-old daughter at home. His partner works as a caregiver, but they are paying off a mortgage and Mr Ipo doesn't know whether they will be able to keep it up.

"I don't want to see that coming," he says. "It's going to be hard."

A colleague at the Wiri depot, James Canty, 46, is in a better position because he doesn't have a mortgage and his wife earns a good wage as a specialist nurse. But he won't be able to earn as much as the $19-$20 an hour that Foodstuffs pays.

"To go elsewhere we will be starting at $17 or $17.50," he says.

Route and Retail, the Foodstuffs subsidiary they work for, has offered to take them on again as owner-drivers. Ms Shallue says some drivers "have transitioned to become direct employees with the new subcontractor". But Mr Ipo doubts any will take the owner-driver option.

"It would cost $300,000 for a vehicle, you put that up against your house," he says.

"If you're on a two-year contract, after that two years they may say we no longer need you any more, and here you are stuck with only a quarter of it paid off. I've seen a lot of drivers in the day go down, their houses taken."

Jason likes the stop go nature of work

Stop-go man Jason Saunders has worked for labour hire firm Allied Workforce on and off for 22 years and is still a "casual" employee.

When he reports to the firm's Henderson office at 6.30am, he doesn't know whether he will have work that day, or what sort of a job it will be.

"It could be a two-hour job. It could be a four-hour job, or a month, or a year," he says.

He has had one job through the firm that lasted a year at an air-conditioning business.

At the other extreme, if a job lasts less than a day he still gets paid for a minimum of four hours and has the rest of the day off.

His pay varies depending on the job. He was on $13.50 at the air-conditioning company, but was on $14.98 as a "stop-go" man on a roadworks site in Mt Roskill last week. The labour hire firm put him through a four-day course to get his ticket for traffic control work.

He likes the job. "If I've lasted this long, then it must be working, otherwise I'd be doing something else," he says. "I like the flexibility and the different jobs you do. If you're stuck to one job it gets a bit tedious after a while."

He's 42, but single, and flats in Glendene with his aunty and another flatmate, paying $100 a week for board. He has just come back from a holiday in Australia.

Henderson operations manager Tina Henry says Mr Saunders has stayed longer than most of her workers. Mr Saunders has also had chances to transfer to permanent jobs. "I've had the opportunity," he says, "but the allure of the flexibility is too strong."

- NZ Herald

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