Category: Engineering, Infrastructure, and Extractions

‘Significant redundancies’ proposed and possible mill closure for steel workers

Keeping local jobs as part of the New Zealand construction industry supply chain is essential, E tū union says, after the announcement of proposed redundancies by BlueScope Steel.

On Monday, the Australian-owned company warned of its plans to lay off “a substantial number” of staff as it reduces the scale of its New Zealand sites in Otahuhu and Glenbrook.

It reported a full-year operating loss of A$5.8 million for its operations in New Zealand and the Pacific Islands and has not ruled out complete closure of its Glenbrook mill.

E tū member Lance Gush, who works at New Zealand Steel’s Glenbrook mill, says while the extent of the redundancies isn’t yet known, the situation was causing anxiety for workers.

“We’ve seen press releases in Australian papers talking about mass redundancies, and it’s very concerning. The lack of information makes that worse,” he says.

“Obviously, this business is an extremely important landmark in the Glenbrook community and surrounding communities. Any layoffs would have a huge impact on the area.”

Lance says other redundancies, including voluntary redundancy and redeployment of workers, affecting up to 60 staff at Glenbrook were only formally confirmed on Friday last week.

E tū negotiation specialist Joe Gallagher says while the union acknowledges the “significant headwinds” faced by the company, such as power, carbon emissions and the competitive prices of imported steel, keeping local jobs was essential.

“Glenbrook is the only mill in the country that produces steel, and it’s really valuable to our economy. This business contributes to 1% of our GDP, with a direct benefit to the community of more than $135 million per year,” Joe says.

“One in four workers in the Glenbrook community are employed at the mill, and we’d like to see a guarantee from the Government that will ensure local procurement.”

Joe says retaining steel production onshore will keep the New Zealand construction industry strong and keep valuable production lines open, rather than relying exclusively on imported steel.

ENDS

For more information and comment:
Joe Gallagher, 027 591 0015

Union calls for Just Transition for workers as smelter to close

E tū union is calling for a ‘Just Transition’ for workers in the wake of Rio Tinto’s announcement it will be closing its smelter at Tiwai Point.

Around 1000 workers directly employed by the smelter will be affected, as well as at least a further estimated 1600 workers in the supply chain and local businesses.

Rio Tinto has given notice to terminate its contract with electricity supplier Meridian Energy, which ends in August 2021.

E tū Negotiation Specialist Joe Gallagher says the knock-on effect of the closure will be “huge”.

“This is a significant employer and this company is at the heart of its community. A closure will affect the entire supply chain, including other local suppliers,” he says.

“The smelter produces high grade aluminium and quality jobs for New Zealanders. It doesn’t make sense that as soon as it can’t get energy any cheaper, it abdicates responsibility for its workers.”

Rio Tinto needs to think about the legacy it wants to leave as a company, Joe says.

“To be clear, the closure will have an effect on the whole of Southland.”

Joe says the Government needs to consider a similar approach to that used in Taranaki with the Taranaki 2050 Roadmap, to ensure a Just Transition takes place.

“The Government should use the expertise, knowledge, and methodology that the Taranaki 2050 Roadmap partners have built in the region, but developing it at a much quicker pace for Southland with substantial investment early on.

“It has the opportunity post-COVID-19 to show a pathway forward for a proper, fair and just transition, including enabling workers to retrain or redeploy, while involving them, their communities, and iwi to rebuild better in the region.”

ENDS

For more information and comment:
Joe Gallagher, 027 591 0015

‘Brutal’ proposed job cuts at Carter Holt Harvey

Workers are devastated at a restructure proposal which could see more than two-thirds of their team made redundant at Carter Holt Harvey’s remaining Northland timber plant.

In May, the company proposed to cut 68% of its production roles from 241 down to just 77 at their Laminated Veneer Lumber (LVL) plant at Marsden Point, as part of a plan to abandon export sales and focus on domestic supply only.

Despite LVL receiving around $2.2 million in wage subsidies in the first week of April, workers were forced to use, on average, two weeks of their annual leave during the Level 4 lockdown.

Some workers, who had little or no leave, now face a zero or negative leave balance and redundancy. The company also confirmed it has not ruled out complete closure of the plant.

E tū Industry Councillor Glen Chaplin visited Carter Holt Harvey workers last week and says they are completely demoralised by the proposed redundancy.

“Workers are really devastated and deflated. They don’t know what to do next and don’t necessarily see a path forward for getting other work,” Glen says.

“It’s decision which would potentially leave two-thirds of their workforce out of jobs in an area that’s already economically depressed.”

E tū organiser Annie Tothill says the timing of the proposed cuts is “brutal”.

“The harvesting of workers’ leave means some workers will have nothing left of their leave balance to help support a period of redundancy.

“It is in everyone’s best interest that the wage subsidy is used as intended – for the workers – and we urge Carter Holt Harvey to use the 12-week subsidy to cover the cost of reinstating all that leave to all their workers now.”

Annie says with a number of employers in manufacturing and infrastructure issuing restructure notices with potential redundancies, the Government needs to step in quickly for communities to have justice and to prevent a self-fulfilling cycle of job loss and economic downturn.

It also needs to create an accountable pathway for the timber manufacturing industry to thrive again, including exports, Annie says.

“To rebuild better, we need to keep and increase the number of decent jobs in New Zealand. The jobs at Carter Holt Harvey are good, sustainable manufacturing jobs that provide for hundreds of workers and their families, indeed the whole community.”

The company will announce their decision on 8 June.

ENDS

For more information and comment:
Annie Tothill 027 573 4934

Salaries still slashed as Fletchers proposes to axe up to 1000 Kiwi jobs

Up to 1000 workers at Fletchers are facing possible redundancy, after having already been on reduced pay during lockdown.

Since early April, workers have been on a 12-week pay reduction plan, which saw them receiving less than their normal weekly income – a change over which they say they were not properly consulted.

E tū understands employees now back at work are on reduced days and hours.

To add insult to injury, Fletchers has now announced a proposal to cull up to 1000 New Zealand workers, about 10% of their workforce.

Fletchers received almost $68 million from the Government’s wage subsidy scheme.

E tū Negotiation Specialist Joe Gallagher says to rebuild better, New Zealand needs to keep and create decent jobs.

“This means secure employment especially for the critical infrastructure workers we desperately need to recover our economy.”

E tū’s representative for engineering and infrastructure on the National Executive, Bruce Habgood, says the rebuild needs to be about people over profits.

“We’re calling on the Government to step in and ensure we keep Kiwi jobs in New Zealand.

“It’s about allowing the economy to recover justly,” Bruce says.

ENDS

For more information and comment:
Joe Gallagher 027 591 0015

Update for Fletchers members

E tū officials met with Fletcher and subsidiary company representatives to discuss the Bridging Pay Programme (BPP) they proposed and the consultation packet they have sent to workers who did not agree to the BPP by the company’s short time frames.

None of the options the company has offered in the packet are good enough in our view, and given the pressure of agreeing to something or potentially not having enough income for your needs, we view any choice you make as under duress.  However, we encourage you to do what works best for you so you have money to live.  You need to select the option that’s best for you in a bad situation.

E tū will continue to pursue all avenues to try to improve the situation for members and your families now and continuing after the lockdown.  Union reps have met with the company and been very clear that we will raise our deep concerns at all levels, including with MBIE, who we have now contacted.

Our understanding from the company is that those who did not agree before the company cut off to the BPP can still do so, and you also have access to the other options the company outlined in the consultation packs.  After you discuss the option that works best for you with your manager, if the company tells you that option isn’t available for you, please get that in writing and talk to your delegate.

E tū members at Fletchers: “We’ll be screwed”

E tū members at Fletcher Building Ltd are opening up about how they expect their pay cut to affect them and their families.

The company has announced that most workers are in line for a wage cut of up to 70%, while the top executives on millions of dollars a year will have a 30% cut.

Dave Asher, who works at Winstone Wallboards, which is part of the Fletcher building products division, feels betrayed.

“I feel bloody stabbed in the back,” Dave says.

“It’s as if we are worthless and of no value to the company. It would be awesome to get them to listen to us, but we’re getting no feedback through. It’s not good enough for us.

“I feel for the families who live paycheque to paycheque. How are they going to handle this? For the younger ones, it’s going to be a tough ask.”

Tame Wairepo-Bell is worried about what such a major pay cut would do for him, his partner, and their 5-month old daughter, Piper-Mae.

“If I was to lose 70% of my wage, I worry that I wouldn’t be able to give our child the support she needs. We’ll do everything we can to provide the essentials for her, but it would probably mean I myself won’t be able to eat.”

One E tū member spoke anonymously about what the cuts would mean for his shopping list.

“It will put me into severe hardship. At 50% pay I may be able to cover some costs but would have to skip buying some basic household items and would have a really limited choice of groceries.

“30% would mean potentially defaulting on my mortgage. We’d be screwed.”

Another anonymous worker shared the sentiment.

“Don’t know what to do when the money drops down – we’ll have to talk to the bank and see what we can do. We’ll be screwed.

“This is a big company that makes big profits. The people on the floor who put all the work out get nothing and the executives stay on high wages. I feel gutted, it wasn’t what I expected.

That worker also urged the company to make a more realistic offer and engage in good faith.

“It would take a lot of the stress away. If they don’t, I don’t know how we will survive, I really don’t.”

E tū Negotiation Specialist Joe Gallagher says it isn’t over yet.

“We’re deeply concerned by Fletcher’s behaviour. We believe their proposal to date has been nothing short of unlawful, and our members desperately need the company to rethink it. We’ll be reporting the company’s behaviour to MBIE, as well as continuing to talk to the Government.

We are pleased that Fletchers are applying for the wage subsidy, but they need to come to the party with a meaningful contribution of their own in these unprecedented times.”

ENDS

For more info or comment: Joe Gallagher, 027 591 0015

Message to Fletchers – don’t cut pay!

E tū members at Fletcher Building Ltd are not satisfied with the company’s announcement that they intend to cut pay by up to 70%, while top executives keep earning megabucks.

Last night, the company sent a letter to all employees outlining their proposal which would see thousands of workers severely out of pocket for many weeks.

E tū negotiation specialist Joe Gallagher says that the unfairness is incredible.

“We expect companies to do the right thing and pay all workers 100% of their average weekly earnings, especially companies like Fletchers who can easily afford it,” Joe says.

“It’s frankly unbelievable that they want workers to take such a gigantic pay cut while the higher-ups, who earn up to half a million dollars a year, will take just a 15% cut in their pay.

“It shows a lack of respect for the workforce that keeps their company moving. It shows that they don’t seem to care about families getting through the crisis.

“This is not a struggling company. They have massive public and private contracts and could absolutely afford to keep everyone employed with the pay rates that union members have fought hard to secure. Instead, they’re passing the cost of COVID-19 directly onto the workers. It’s outrageous.”

Joe says that these issues should be addressed through proper consultation.

“We want proper consultation and engagement, but workers have only been given about 24 hours to consider the proposal.

“The Government subsidy enables Fletchers to pay 100% over the four weeks of lockdown, which allows meaningful time for proper engagement with the workforce.”

Joe says that Fletchers can’t unilaterally impose such changes across their workforce.

“The Employment Relations Act and our collective agreements are still fully in force. COVID-19 has not suspended our rights at work. The virus does not give license for companies to just do as they please.

“We’re very open to engaging properly through this process, but with the company already leaving workers out of crucial decision-making, we need to be clear: our bottom line is that workers are paid properly and given the job and wage security that they deserve and have fought for.”

ENDS

For more information and comment:
Joe Gallagher, 027 591 0015

Climate Change Survey: E tū! Your voice is needed!

Climate change and its impacts are upon us. Our industries face particular challenges, yet in New Zealand we have little information on what we as a society think about this or what we should do. 

This research survey is being conducted through Auckland University of Technology and invites every union member to give their feedback on issues to do with climate change, Just Transition, and what is happening in workplaces on these issues.  This will be the largest survey to date on the issue and will provide important information that unions can use for planning and education.

Participation is voluntary and confidential, and the survey will take around 15 minutes to complete. Your union encourages all members to complete the survey. Please click HERE to start the survey and for further details on the project.

Time

by Sean Hindson

We have time, right now – we all have time. I say this because we have time in the form of the moment we are in together; right now.

It’s is the ‘right now’ that we all share, regardless of our beliefs, our fears, our worries, our hopes, or our views on the world.

We can take this ‘right now’ to acknowledge that we are vulnerable, acknowledge that we have made mistakes, acknowledge that we have to (not need to) but have to come together.

The planet we belong to is screaming at us, demanding change. It is showing us through fires, typhoons, floods, and storms that we have to change. The planet is demanding change, it’s demanding it because it too is vulnerable.

Being vulnerable, as we and the planet are, is the catalyst for change.

I have been in discussion with people who deny the fact the world is changing. I have had the ‘what ifs’ thrust upon me. I have had my conversations cut short by those people who refuse to acknowledge the absolute certainty that the impact of humans has transformed our earth.

These people seem to be strong now, but are essentially oblivious to the change that is required by us all to enhance the lives of the generations of youth to whom we will entrust this earth.

Those of us aware of our collective vulnerability are already forging greater change, fighting by looking inwards and having an awareness of the fear we all have, shifting the way we think and allowing ourselves the courage to think differently

Take a moment to think about the courage it takes – undiluted courage – to know that vulnerability is a strength.

The first steps are already being taken around the world. In New Zealand, the Just Transition is to my mind, an acknowledgment of that vulnerability which can be such a strength.

So where do workers and people tie into this? They are at the core, the foundation. Workers are the ones who will essentially have the power to change these mindsets.

We have to change ourselves. It is painful to look in the mirror, acknowledge our faults, and be true to ourselves and each other.

Workers mostly have more to worry about than the long-term future. When we work together, truly work together, to shift those mind sets, to force change in those businesses that do not allow workers to have standards of living that afford them the ability to think compassionately about more than just the immediate future… then we shift the world.

In essence that is the key.

Workers in our regions should be in a position where they can think about the long-term future while acknowledging and appreciating the moment they are in.

This ability comes with equal standards of pay, training, and that most precious of assets… time. Time to share moments with community, family and friends. Time to converse and be open with those that surround you.

I personally reckon we have known this for a very long time. My question is: why has it taken so long for businesses to allow themselves to be vulnerable enough to care in a truly honest and deep way?

After all, time marches on for businesses, too. No one is exempt from the effects of what we are doing to ourselves and our environments, because our environments are, in the end, ourselves.