Workers seeking 'fair share'

TESS MCCLURE
Last updated 05:00 14/06/2014

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Government workers are striking in Christchurch after their salary negotiations collapsed and promises of "rock-star economy" pay rises failed to emerge.

Christchurch workers for the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) were striking yesterday along with 1000 others across the country after pay talks failed.

Forty workers in Christchurch were on the picket line seeking a 2 per cent pay rise.

The ministry had offered a 1 per cent rise - lower than inflation, the workers said.

Public Service Association (PSA) union national secretary Richard Wagstaff said MBIE staff had spent "over a year trying to get a fair deal", and had become "increasingly frustrated with their employer's refusal to offer decent wage movement".

"After a year, the best pay offer is nothing for those who are entitled to progression through their salary scale and 1 per cent for everyone else."

Wagstaff said it was ironic the Government was refusing a small pay rise following announcements earlier in the the year that Kiwis should expect pay rises as a result of the "rock-star economy".

"Our members are well aware of that talk and that rhetoric, and yet they still find themselves stuck in the mud." Finance Minister Bill English said in January that Kiwis should expect pay rises this year after years of belt tightening.

"A lot of households will be looking for benefits through more job security, which they haven't had [and] through pay rises, which households haven't had much of through the last three or four years. So yeah, they have a right to expect to see some of the benefits," English said.

Wagstaff said MBIE workers were "key to the Government's plans for New Zealanders' wages to rise . . . MBIE staff protect our borders, promote innovation and help to grow the New Zealand economy - they deserve their fair share." Christchurch workers were picketing outside the Wrights Rd office in Addington yesterday morning. They were also on "work to rule" - refusing to do any unpaid overtime and taking all scheduled breaks.

Industrial action would continue next week if a better offer was not tabled by the ministry, Wagstaff said.

Ministry spokesman Peter Thomas said the industrial action was disappointing. The ministry had offered a "fair, affordable and sustainable" package that would result in an average 2.1 per cent increase for association members, he said.

Wagstaff said that was a "deliberately misleading" number.

"We would welcome a proposal of a 2.1 per cent increase across the board," he said. "We'd like to see them put their money where their mouth is." Thomas said services to the public would be maintained during the action, and the ministry would be happy to return to the bargaining table when it was over.

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