Fourteen workers at a Northland quarry have been suspended from work and trespassed from the site following strike action for better pay.
Workers at Atlas Quarries at Maungaturoto walked off the job yesterday and were picketing at the site from 6.30am, stopping traffic from entering the site on State Highway 1, south of Whangārei. They were expected back there today from 5am.
Police were notified after there were concerns the trucks being stopped at the front gates could be causing a danger to motorists.
The workers at the quarry, on the southern side of the Brynderwyn Hills, about 25km north of Wellsford, gave notice of strike action on Wednesday night.
Yesterday, about 10.20am, the quarry manager handed out a notice of suspension to the workers and named 14 employees in the letter.
The suspension continues until the end of the strike.
"The employees who are suspended are not entitled to any remuneration by way of salary, wages, allowances, or other emoluments in respect of the period of the suspension," the notice said.
But by 1pm, after discussions with police, the workers were trespassed from the site.
On the picket line, workshop employee Dave Hogan, who had 12 years with the company, said the workers weren't looking for a fantastic amount of money but just a fair rate.
Driver Graham Mills was not surprised they had been suspended, as he had been expecting 'some tactics' by the company.
"The company has always done pretty well and all we want is fair pay and workers to get the industry pay," Mills, who has worked for the company for 20 years, said.
First Union spokeswoman Louisa Jones said the workers, including truck drivers and quarry workers, were striking over pay and conditions, mainly wanting to remove a clause in their contract which made truck drivers available to work for up to 88 hours a week.
She said the workers are getting around $20 an hour, less than the industry standard of around $24 an hour.
The Northland Advocate sought comment from Atlas Quarries but they did not respond by deadline.
Jones said the striking workers have asked for their pay to be brought into line with the industry standard and for the "availability" clause to be removed and replaced with one requiring them to be available for no more than 70 hours a week.
"We think potentially working up to 88 hours week is very dangerous, not just for the workers, but the whole of Northland as it's not safe to have potentially fatigued truck drivers on the road," she said.
"They re not asking for anything over and above what is the industry standard and we want the availability clause brought in line with what is in the legislation, which is 70 hours a week."
Jones said the workers and union considered the availability clause a serious health and safety issue.