Warehouse strike action spreads

the warehouse2Workers who went on strike at the Warehouse Blenheim are calling on the company to live up to its own rhetoric and pay a decent wage, says FIRST Union organiser Dennis Maga. This follows a strike at The Warehouse Manukau on Thursday.

“The striking workers are calling on The Warehouse to live up to its own rhetoric. Senior management talk a big game about decent pay and good conditions, yet many of the workers who were promised living wages are being kept at low wage levels in understaffed stores,” says Maga.

“Despite constantly touting the Career Retailer Wage (CRW) as market leading, this is not the case. Workers in unionised supermarkets enjoy higher starting rates than workers at the Warehouse. This gap between rhetoric and reality is causing worker unrest.

“Before Warehouse workers are entitled to the CRW they must log either 5000 hours or five years’ service, whichever comes first. But part-time and casual workers now outnumber full-time workers, meaning that most Warehouse workers may never receive the CRW.”

“At Kmart it takes workers only two years to reach the same pay rate as the CRW.

“With low wages and creeping casualisation, is it any wonder workers are striking?”

According to Julia Morton, head of PR and media at The Warehouse, The Warehouse has been bargaining with First Union for the past six weeks and an agreement had been reached on all 24 claims under negotiation bar one claim. That one claim is regarding the second year offer, for August 2016, of a difference of $0.08 an hour per person between respective positions.

She says that the reason such a small number of The Warehouse team are affected by this negotiation is that the majority of The Warehouse team are covered by the Career Retailer Wage program.

“The Career Retailer Wage, which was initiated by The Warehouse Group with no union involvement in the decision, has meant team members’ pay rates have increased from between $15.50-$17.85 an hour to $18.31-$20.03 an hour – rises of around 17 per cent over the past two years. This is industry leading and at the time the union applauded us for the initiative,” says Morton.

“Over half of our team members are on or above the Career Retailer Wage, and more qualify every month.

“The increase from $15.02 per hour to $15.32 referred to in FIRST Union’s media release is highly misleading.”

She stresses that this rate currently applies to only 13 team members nationwide or 0,14 per cent of The Warehouse’s team and only for the first three months of their employment based on entry-level skills.

“It is still above the current minimum wage of $14.75 per hour,” concludes Morton.

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