Pak’nSave employees are growing increasingly frustrated with a lack of bargaining with Richmond management, and FIRST Union organiser Ross Lampert says that the employer is trying to undermine the process.

After a meeting last week, union members have decided to go to mediation bargaining.

“When you reach an impasse, either side can call for mediation. There’s a third-party mediator who will try to get the parties to come together.”

Mediation hasn’t worked in the past, but Ross says he hopes it will be helpful. Pak’n Save employee and union delegate Jenny Wells says the new offer is below what Pak’nSave is currently paying.

“They give us an offer like that knowing we aren’t going to approve. It’s simply a delay tactic. They are trying to undermine the process and drive people away from the union”.

“It’s a way to undermine the collective barraging agreement. If they come to an agreement which pays less than what they currently pay, then what is the incentive for anyone to join the union,” Ross says.

Jenny says that the reaction from union members at Pak’n Save Richmond has varied through ‘disappointed, deflated, and outraged.’

“People are feeling really angry about that kind of offer.”

Jenny and her fellow employees are seeking a collective agreement that will see higher wages, additional sick days, and long service recognition.

“They continue to hold the line that the minimums are acceptable. The only movements have been when the Government has changed the law, like doing away with 90-day trials. That was part of our initial bargaining attempt, to get rid of that,” Jenny says.

Ross says that if supermarket workers are essential workers, they should be getting an essential pay. “Why aren’t they getting paid a wage that reflects their value.”

Supermarkets made record profits through the Covid-19 lockdown.

“They were paying their staff 10 per cent extra in level 4, because of pressure from the union, it’s a couple of bucks extra, and they should make that permanent. Everybody would be pretty happy, and they have the ability to do that. They’re making money hand over fist.”

The wage of employees at Countdown supermarkets who have been employed for over a year is being raised to $21.15 on the 28 September, as a result of collective bargaining.

“They are getting a much fairer deal.”

Jenny says she has approached Nelson MP Nick Smith for support but was told he doesn’t get involved in workplace disputes.

She also approached Labour candidate for Nelson Rachel Boyack, who said that she has written to owner Andrew Howard imploring him to return to the bargaining table.

“These are essential workers who deserve a decent wage, especially given the profits supermarkets have been making during Covid.”

Ross says they need the community to get behind workers, and that anyone interesting in offering their support should contact ross.lampert@firstunion.org.nz

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