Simon Collins

Simon Collins is the Herald’s social issues reporter.

'Les miserables' fight for bigger payout

Event Cinema worker Mel Johnston protests with colleagues outside the Auckland headquarters. Photo / Chris Gorman
Event Cinema worker Mel Johnston protests with colleagues outside the Auckland headquarters. Photo / Chris Gorman

A movie chain refusing to talk to a group of workers who are being let go today has found itself with "les miserables" in the flesh.

A delegation from the Event Cinemas site at Highland Park, near Pakuranga, went to the chain's head office in central Auckland yesterday, complaining about being laid off with only two weeks' redundancy pay, even though some of the four fulltime staff and about 20 part-timers have worked at the site for up to 17 years.

"We feel like the poor people in Les Miserables, just fighting for our rights," said Mel Johnston, 36, who has had three children since she started working at the complex in 2005.

The company refused to talk to the group, telling them it "would talk one-to-one but not in a situation like this".

Event Cinemas New Zealand general manager Carmen Switzer said the collective agreement negotiated with Unite Union did not include any redundancy pay.

"In good faith Event Cinemas gave three months' notice to the staff (we were contractually required to give four weeks) and have provided two weeks' redundancy plus redeployment options," she said.

One person has already been given work at another cinema and six others are negotiating.

The company, owned by Amalgamated Holdings in Australia, took over SkyCity cinemas in 2010 and is the country's biggest cinema chain with 101 screens in 13 locations in Whangarei, Auckland, Hamilton, New Plymouth and Wellington.

Highland Park is the second site to close since the takeover from SkyCity, after one in Hamilton in 2011.

A spokeswoman said the closure today was because competition from nearby cinema centres at Sylvia Park, Botany and Manukau had brought a drop in patronage.

Ms Johnston, who has worked 16 to 20 hours a week since she returned from maternity leave last August, said she had joined the protest to make other people aware of the lack of any legal requirement to pay reasonable redundancy pay.

Unite Union organiser Joe Carolan said New Zealand was one of only a few developed countries that did not have legislation on the issue.

- NZ Herald

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production bpcf01 at 26 Oct 2014 16:17:06 Processing Time: 373ms