Ceres Organics workers strike for better working conditions

MADISON REIDY/ FAIRFAX NZ

Workers from Ceres Organics were on strike on Thursday and protested their working conditions outside Ponsonby Central in Auckland.

Workers from an organic produce supplier have gone on strike and claim the company is not an ethical employer.

About 10 distribution workers from Ceres Organics protested in Ponsonby Central in Auckland claiming the company should lose it's 'organic' status because it refuses to negotiate over redundancy entitlements and overtime rates.

They also claimed Ceres discouraged workers from joining unions and did not follow up on violence in the workplace.

Ceres Organics general manager David Josephson says he is disappointed the workers have gone on strike.
MADISON REIDY/FAIRFAX NZ

Ceres Organics general manager David Josephson says he is disappointed the workers have gone on strike.

But the Ceres general manager David Josephson said those allegations were false and redundancy entitlements were not needed because the company was growing which provided job security.

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"We're expanding our markets overseas and we're still a New Zealand based company," he said.

"We're always concerned [about strikes], they're making the claim we're not ethical and I think as a company we are ethical."

All Ceres staff were given a 6 per cent wage increase in July and the company would not agree to another one-off wage increase of 3 per cent being sought by the workers, Josephson said.

First Union organiser Marcus Coverdale said: "They (Ceres) are certified by BioGro New Zealand, but they have to have a social justice policy to get certification, which includes freedom of association and for participation in a union on site".

"The issue we're having is natural justice rights aren't there. [The workers] have been discouraged from participating in the union, our membership halved in the past three years which is from how the company approached them."

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The two parties were also accusing one another of pressuring workers.

Coverdale said Ceres was using scare tactics to discourage workers from joining the union.

"We've had people bullied or been told if they stay in the union their jobs are in jeopardy," he said.

But Josephson denied this and said the union was pressuring workers into joining.

"We've always been open and are more than happy to have a union on site, but we do not like the union pressuring people into becoming a union member," he said.

"I think it has [been happening] especially between family members within the workforce."

 - Stuff

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