Supermarket distribution workers strike for better conditions

CHRIS HARROWELL/STUFF

Foodstuffs distribution worker Gino Kelly talks about why he and other staff are picketing.

Foodstuffs distribution temporary workers have gone on a seven day strike for better work conditions.

More than 60 workers at a chilled and frozen food distribution centre in South Auckland are calling on Foodstuffs, which owns Pak 'n Save and New World supermarkets, to provide better working conditions.

First Union transport and logistics secretary Jared Abbott said stock at supermarkets in the upper North Island would be affected by the strike.

Foodstuffs distribution centre store person Gino Kelly, 24, is among the dozens of workers picketing outside the ...
SUPPLIED

Foodstuffs distribution centre store person Gino Kelly, 24, is among the dozens of workers picketing outside the company's south Auckland facility.

"These workers stock all the frozen goods. Frozen chicken, frozen veg, ice cream, chips, even some cooled goods like yoghurt and butter, anything that requires refrigeration will be effected," he said.

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"Foodstuffs run an operation of using a large amount of labour hire temporary workers. They've got hundreds of them, and they use them in permanent positions and exploit the precarious nature of their work.

Foodstuffs chief executive Chris Quin said Foodstuffs had been in negotiations with First Union over the past six weeks ...
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Foodstuffs chief executive Chris Quin said Foodstuffs had been in negotiations with First Union over the past six weeks regarding its collective agreement.

"So we're striking to try and get labour hire workers converted to direct employment."

Abbott said some Foodstuffs workers had been working for the company for years on minimum wage with no job security because they were employed through a third party.

"This is a model that's been running for about a decade – it's their way of avoiding employment and paying low rates, and having workers who have no rights under employment law," he said.

Workers from an Auckland Foodstuffs distribution centre are striking for seven days.
SUPPLIED

Workers from an Auckland Foodstuffs distribution centre are striking for seven days.

Distribution worker Gino Kelly worked at Foodstuffs for about five years before being offered permanent employment.

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"It's quite disgusting how people are treated here," he said.

"The work is hard, it's cold, and you're lifting a lot of heavy things. It's like slave work.

"I'm permanent now, but it took a long time to get here. I was so glad my parents could help me [financially] during that time."

Workers and their supporters are picketing outside the distribution centre in Nesdale Ave, Wiri.

Foodstuffs chief executive Chris Quin said: "Unfortunately, despite third party mediation, agreement has not been reached and the union has decided to strike."

"As a business we are committed to treating our people fairly and we believe the offer we have put to the union is fair and reasonable. We have plans in place to minimise disruption to customers."

Quin said Foodstuffs employed a labour hire company to provide contractors and the contractors' employment agreement was with the labour hire company, which also managed their absenteeism.

* Comments on this article have been closed.

 - Stuff

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