Thousands of workers to protest proposed new laws in 28 towns from Kaitaia to Bluff today.
Union organiser Shopan Dasgupta says he has fought for two years to get access to the training room of an airport catering company - but fears losing even this toehold under controversial new labour laws.
Mr Dasgupta, a former employee of the airline catering industry leader LSG Sky Chefs, says he was banned for six months by neighbouring rival Pacific Flight Catering when he became the industry organiser for the Service and Food Workers Union last year.
"They wrote a letter to my secretary citing allegations of dishonesty and of spying for some documents that I would have given over to next-door," he said yesterday. "They are all bogus charges."
A year later he has won access to Pacific Flight's headquarters near Auckland Airport - but only to the training room.
He said the human resources manager or one of her staff escorts him to the room and makes sure he doesn't leave - for anything. "Once I needed a glass of water," Mr Dasgupta said. "I said, 'Listen, I'm just five metres away from the water tap'. She said, 'You are not going into the cafeteria, I'll get you the glass of water'."
Thousands of workers are expected at rallies in 28 towns from Kaitaia to Bluff today to protest against proposed new labour laws which could make it even harder for unions to get access to new workplaces.
New Wellington Mayor Celia Wade-Brown will join a rally at Parliament and Auckland Mayor-elect Len Brown is sending a message of support to the Auckland rally at the TelstraClear Pacific Events Centre.
The new law would require unions to get an employer's consent to enter any workplace. It says employers "must not unreasonably withhold consent", must reply to a request for access within two working days, and must give written reasons within two more days if they refuse consent.
Council of Trade Unions secretary Peter Conway, who joined a picket outside Pacific Flight Catering last month, said the change would let employers keep unions out for up to four days, and by then problems could be much worse.
A delegate for Pacific Flight ground stewards who have been seeking a collective agreement since 2008, Va'a Ngakau, said one member was offered a $2-an-hour pay rise if he quit the union. Another quit for $2700 in backpay and a promise of a redundancy clause, he said.
He said the ground stewards and scullery (dishwashing) staff were paid the same flat rates for ordinary hours and overtime, whereas the chefs and catering assistants who already have a collective agreement get time-and-a-half for overtime.
Pacific Flight Catering human resources manager Gerda Gorgner is overseas. Company director David Nathan was in a meeting and did not return calls yesterday.
Labour Minister Kate Wilkinson declined to comment on the case but said the proposed new laws, which also extend the 90-day trial period option to all employers, were "moderate".
* Kaitaia: Clock Tower, 12.30pm.
* Kaikohe: Memorial Hall, 1pm.
* Whangarei: Spire Pavilion, 3.30pm.
* Auckland: TelstraClear Pacific Events Centre, 12.30pm.
* Hamilton: Grantham Park, noon.
* Thames: Park next to Warehouse, noon.
* Paeroa: Outside NZ Post, Normanby Rd, 12.30pm.
* Tauranga: Red Square, noon.
* Rotorua: Soundshell, 12.30pm.
* Tokoroa: Outside Kiwibank, Bridge St, 10am.
* Wellington: Parliament, noon.
* Others: union.org.nz