Workers at Sistema's Auckland plant have walked out in what their union has called a "health and safety strike" as a result of coronavirus.

Annie Newman, E tū assistant national secretary, said when workers asked about personal protective equipment, they were told to wait and see what the Government advice was, despite clear regulations coming into force.

"They have also been required to keep working on production lines, often standing less than a metre apart for hours at a time. With this being clearly unacceptable, workers have now gathered in the car park and some have gone home," a statement said.

E tū organisers were now assisting the workers, including by making sure that they are practising physical distancing while on strike, Newman said.

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Questions were put to Sistema now about the strike but reception said no one was available to speak as they were all in a meeting. Not all staff had left the premises, the Herald has just been told.

Newman complained about conditions there.

"All workers have a right to healthy and safe work. It is as clear as day, from the Government advice we are all receiving, that the conditions described by E tū members at Sistema are far from adequate," she said.

Sistema's Auckland factory which workers left. Photo / Sistema
Sistema's Auckland factory which workers left. Photo / Sistema

"We have had many issues with Sistema in the past, but this is simply abhorrent. We completely support any of our members refusing to work in unsafe conditions – that is their legal right," she said.

Sistema's behaviour puts us all at risk, she claimed.

"This is not just about our workers, it's about their families and communities. It's about anyone who they may come into contact with. Sistema is putting production ahead of the health of New Zealanders. It's not an exaggeration to say that Kiwis will die because of employers like this not taking Covid-19 seriously.

"The vast majority of New Zealanders are making gigantic sacrifices to keep each other safe. Now a company worth hundreds of millions of dollars is compromising that to try and squeeze a little bit more out of our overworked and underpaid members.

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"New Zealanders have united against Covid-19 and are uniting against the small handful of employers who think their profits are worth more than our lives. We can now add Sistema to that list of disgusting businesses."