Staff at the Whangārei branch of global food distribution company Bidfood have laid down their tools since yesterday to strike for better pay.
FIRST Union members from the Bidfood offices in Raumanga began strike action at noon Thursday after being denied a national collective agreement that included a living wage and other conditions common in the logistics industry.
FIRST Union spokeswoman Anita Rosentreter, who joined striking workers in Whangārei, said they had been bargaining with Bidfood for more than a year.
"This mega-multinational company's obstinate attitude towards New Zealand's employment laws has continued, and our members are sick and tired of being disrespected," Rosentreter said.
"Our members in Whangārei are serious about their fight for collective coverage and fair wages."
Bidfood is a South African-owned company. The Northland branch employs around 100 people and delivers foods to hotels, hospitals, prisons and restaurants from Mangawhai to the Far North.
FIRST Union is negotiating fairer wages for its members, including allowances for night shifts and compensation in case of redundancies – neither of which are currently covered.
Rosentreter said workers in the Whangārei branch were on average earning between $18-$20 an hour, which was below the standard pay rate at other logistics companies.
Workers gathered in front of Bidfood yesterday where holding signs saying "Better bucks for our backs", "Same rates as those two hours down the road".
According to Rosentreter, Bidfood workers say the company was discriminating against union members and some were keeping their union membership confidential.
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The negotiations between Bidfood and FIRST Union have been under way for more than a year, and the company has come under fire from the Employment Relations Authority for breaching New Zealand employment law by initially refusing to meet with the union.
A single collective agreement would encourage consistent terms and conditions across branches and allow members to bargain for fair wages alongside their colleagues who perform similar or identical roles in other regions.
Staff in Whangārei will strike over the long weekend until Tuesday.
"Long weekends are a busy time for Bidfood, but Labour Day is significant in another way for the members," Rosentreter said.
"It commemorates unionised workers winning an eight-hour workday back in 1840. But in 2019, we are still fighting for fairness at work in many respects."
Bidfood CEO Phil Struckmann wasn't available to comment, and local branch management denied a statement.