Negotiator arrested during supermarket staff strike

By Rebecca Quilliam

The union organiser for striking Progressive supermarket workers was arrested on the picket line in Auckland this morning.

Nearly 600 workers supplying Progressive's Countdown, Foodtown and Woolworth's supermarkets in Auckland, Palmerston North and Christchurch have been on strike since Friday at 4am.

The National Distribution Union is demanding a single nationwide collective agreement.

The workers want equal pay rates and all existing allowances combined into a site allowance, an 8 per cent pay rise and an extra week's service leave.

Union national secretary Laila Harre said the employees were stopping supply trucks servicing the supermarkets.

"The workers are holding the line and there is nothing coming in and out at this stage, touch wood."

However, Ms Harre said today's strike had not run smoothly as the union's negotiator was arrested.

"We're not quite sure why. There hasn't been any aggravation or violence on the picket line."

Ms Harre said it was "unfortunate" that it was the union's negotiator to be arrested.

"And the company will obviously be waiting some time for their workers to come back as a result."

The Progressives employer had also made no effort to contact the union over the weekend, Ms Harre said.

"(The company) does not seem interested in ongoing discussions at this stage."

Ms Harre said the strike was initially going to last for 48 hours, but the employer suspended the workers and said they could not come back to work unless they came back "unconditionally".

"And so the strike continues."

The two groups were due to meet at midday today to decide what their next moves were going to be, Ms Harre said.

- NZPA

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