Frustrations after five years of failed negotiations finally boiled over on Friday last week, with Pak’nSave Richmond workers taking strike action to demonstrate their anger at the lack of progress.

Five years of negotiations have failed to deliver a collective agreement or a living wage.

“Members at Richmond Pak’n Save have been in negotiation for their first collective agreement for five years, which is an absurd amount of time to be underpaid, undervalued, and uncertain about your entitlements and conditions,” says FIRST Union organiser Ross Lampert.

Several union members from Pak’nSave Richmond walked out from their work at the store at different times during the day and handed out leaflets and spoke with customers about their working conditions.

Pak’nSave stores are individually owned but answer to South Island Foodstuffs, which operates separately from its North Island counterpart.

FIRST union has negotiated many collective agreements with Foodstuffs stores in the North Island.

The Foodstuff South Island website states that social responsibility is central to their businesses.

‘This is demonstrated by the way we treat our people, the local community and the environment,’ the website states.

“At a time when supermarkets are making huge profits, it’s really shameful that the Richmond Pak’n’Save owners are continuing to fight against progress and trying to stall and delay bargaining at their employees’ expense,” Ross says.

Pak’nSave Richmond employees, like all supermarket workers, are classed as essential workers and will be called on again if the country returns to lockdown, Ross says.

Union delegate for Pak’nSave, Jenny Wells, who was worked for the supermarket for 17 years, says a living wage would make a huge difference in the lives of her fellow workers.

“It’s nice hearing how valued you are as an essential worker lately, but we’ve not seen anything to back that sentiment up from Foodstuffs in the South Island yet,” says Jenny.

Pak’nSave Richmond employees were joined by members of the public and other union delegates from different sectors.

Gabriella Newman, a union delegate in a different sector, turned up to show solidarity with workers and delegates from Pak’nSave.

“It’s not easy with companies who don’t like unions, and don’t want to sit down and negotiate, it’s really important that we stick together.”

Labour candidate for Nelson and former FIRST union organiser, Rachel Boyack, says that the workers decided to strike because they were frustrated at the lack of progress over the last five years, and believes that Pak’nSave Richmond owner Andrew Howard should return to the bargaining- table himself.

“We think that it is really important that the employer returns to the bargaining-table himself as he is the decision-maker.”

She says Labour will introduce industry-wide fair pay agreements if re-elected.

“We have situations in the supermarket industry where one employer is unionised and another isn’t, our goal is to ensure that regardless of where you work you get a decent pay, training, sick leave and, where appropriate, redundancy.”

She says an MP should encourage both parties to productively engage in the process.

“The role of an MP should be to lend public support to the workers, and I have written to the employer. An MP should be encouraging both parties to be engaged in the process.”

“My concern is that the employer hasn’t been going to the bargaining table, and that undermines the process.”

The group began protesting outside Pak’nSave Richmond but was asked to leave by Richmond Mall management.

Richmond Mall manager Belinda de Clerq was contacted but declined to comment.

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