More than 850 steel workers employed by NZ Steel at their sites in Glenbrook, Waikato North Head and Taharoa have called a 24-hour strike and walked off the job after a breakdown in collective agreement talks.
The EPMU as the union representing the steel workers has confirmed that the sticking point with the employer has been rates of payment and conditions relating to the use of contractors on site.
‘The issue is an obvious one,' says EPMU senior organiser Stuart Hurst. ‘If steel workers employed on site do not get a say on how contractors are used and paid, then the workers will find their own pay and conditions undermined.'
Hurst says that for members to take this action is a serious step.
‘NZ Steel is one of the most efficient and productive steel mills in the BlueScope stable,' says Hurst. ‘The site has enjoyed industrial stability for 20 years, and there have been no problems or difficulties during maintenance shuts or other times when contractors are needed.'
Two years ago NZ Steel initiated court action attacking a contractors' rights clause in the collective agreement and the case is still unresolved.
‘The issue around use of contractors on site has been an obsession of management for some time,' states Hurst. ‘They've thrown everything at the workers to try and get their way on this.'
‘We're hoping that the employer will see sense,' says Hurst. ‘In this day and age, trying to drive down wages and conditions is frankly counter-productive. It's not good for the steel workers, and it's not good for the contractors either.'
For more information contact Stuart Hurst, Senior Organiser, EPMU Auckland 0275 949 836