Eighty-four Northland Department of Conservation workers will use Conservation Week to highlight their concerns that New Zealand's great outdoor public estate is being run on the cheap.
They will be among 1500 Public Service Association (PSA) members working for DoC nationally who have overwhelmingly voted to take industrial action today, in the middle of New Zealand's Conservation Week.
The action will involve working to rule - to paid hours, answering phones and emails in work hours only, taking breaks and other entitlements and doing work related travel only during work hours. The exception will be staff working in essential services or emergency Search and Rescue, Fire or Civil Defence callouts.
The workers are asking for a pay increase of slightly over 2 per cent, down from the initial request for either $1500 or a 3 per cent increase on their base salary.
The PSA has been in negotiations for DoC workers' new collective agreement since early August, with 95 per cent of the union members voting against a proposal their employers put forward.
National secretary Erin Polaczuk said it was time DoC started valuing the staff who fight every day to make the country's 100 per cent pure tag a reality.
"Conservation on the cheap only ends up hurting the endangered species and vast forests that DoC staff work so hard to protect," Ms Polaczuk said.
DoC staff are consistently underpaid compared to similar roles in other public service organisations, she said. The PSA has launched a petition for the public to call on DoC director-general Lou Sanson, Conservation Minister Maggie Barry, State Services Minister Paula Bennett and Prime Minister John Key to prove they value DoC staff and their work enough to offer them fair pay, Ms Polaczuk said.
People of all ages are being encouraged to head to conservation areas this Conservation Week and enjoy the health benefits as a result. There are many activities happening around the region that Northlanders can get involved in. DoC and Experiencing Marine Reserves are running a snorkel day at the Whangarei Harbour Marine Reserve and there is a family fun day at Baylys Beach being organised by the Baylys Beach Society in collaboration with Nga Ripo, Circus Kumarani, NRC, WDC and DOC. Puketotara Landcare is organising a road rubbish clean-up in Kerikeri.