Pak’nSave workers who are fighting for a living wage and additional sick days are unhappy with the lack of bargaining by Pak’nSave Richmond owner Andrew Howard and say that the offers that they are getting are ‘unrealistic’ compared to the industry.
After working throughout lockdown as essential workers, staff from the Richmond Supermarket are lobbying for essential pay and a living wage.
FIRST Union organiser Ross Lampert says that the offer was ‘predictably disappointing.’
“They did come up a little bit, but it’s still not in the realm of reality,” Ross says.
“Their offer is below what is really going on out there, with Countdown going up to a living wage – their offer is significantly below that.”
“It’s not realistic that workers at Pak‘nSave should be paid far less than workers at Countdown,” Ross says, especially when a Countdown supermarket is in the works just minutes up the road from Pak’nSave Richmond.
A building consent application was lodged with the Tasman District Council for a Countdown supermarket on the corner of Champion Road and Salisbury Road in May this year.
Rachel Boyack, Labour Candidate for Nelson and former FIRST Union organiser, was the union organiser for Pak’nSave Richmond when bargaining began in 2015. In recent months she has lobbied owner Andrew Howard to come to the bargaining table.
“An employer dragging their heels for 5 years is unusual,” Rachel says.
“The offer on the table from the employer still doesn’t meet what should be a fair rate for essential workers who are putting themselves on the front line. These are skilled workers.”
“During the Covid-19 lockdown the public recognised the essential role of supermarket workers.”
Pak’Save Richmond’s parent company, Foodstuffs South Island, states on their website that:
“Corporate social responsibility is central to our approach to business, from board level to checkout. This is demonstrated by the way we treat our people, the local community and the environment.”
When asked if the Covid-19 pandemic highlighted the value of supermarket workers to the community as essential workers, and if they should be getting a wage that reflects that value, Pak’nSave Richmond owner Andrew Howard said in a statement that the company took care to keep its staff working throughout the lockdown, safe.
“The business takes great care to ensure our people and customers visiting the store are kept safe and protected from Covid-19.”
Asked about Countdown agreeing to pay its staff a living wage, Andrew said that Pak’nSave Richmond was engaged in good faith bargaining.
“We are engaged in a good faith bargaining with FIRST Union and have met with them with the goal to conclude a collective agreement.”
“We reached out to them in February and March offering to attend mediation which they declined. We are perplexed as to why they would decline, but we remain open to mediation and are respectful of the process which we don’t believe should be done via the media,” Andrew said.
But Ross says that workers have been faced with endless delays.
“The company did request mediation, but we thought we could achieve a collective agreement. There was every indication that they were interested in settling, but then Covid hit. When we finally were able to meet again, they hadn’t made movement on their offer.”
“In terms of the media, he personally won’t meet with us, so how else can we talk to him?”