300-strong Rotorua marchers shut out from council meeting

By Mānia Clarke-Mamanu

A 300-strong hīkoi travelled through the main streets of Rotorua in protest over ongoing pay negotiations at InfraCore and the outsourcing of management to run the local Aquatics Centre.

“Just come and talk to us that's all we want,” says Aquatic Centre Shift Supervisor Duty Manager, Alex Te Kowhai. “You didn't talk to us from the start and you haven't talked to the InfraCore boys as well.”

“No outsourcing!” says fellow Shift Supervisor Duty Manager, Syd Warena, “We're here for the public. Great turnout [from] the public, just here to support us.  We'll just see what comes out of this.”

Aquatic Centre staff members want the local pools to remain under local management.  InfraCore union members are striking for a 2.5 percent pay increase.

“We're here because we've had an impasse in collective bargaining that's been going on for months,” says First Union Organiser, Phil Graham.

On 1st December, Aquatic staff were told the Council would be outsourcing Auckland-based Community Leisure Management (CLM) to run the centre. 

Today's marchers headed to the Council to attend the last councillors meeting for the year but were shut out.

“That's shameful behaviour from Rotorua Council to lock out its own ratepayers,” says AWUNZ Regional Organiser Rop Popata.

“We had a discussion here earlier on, saying 'we go in, we sit quietly, we show manners'.  So for them to do this sort of behaviour just shows the distaste that they have for the workers.”

One onlooker said the pools should be run by locals because 'it’s our area'.

In a statement to Te Kāea, the Rotorua Lakes Council says the Aquatic Centre will still be owned by the community - it has not been sold or privatised and negotiations are ongoing.

On Monday, mediation discussion will take place between AWUNZ and the Council.  If issues remain unresolved the matters will be heard in an Employment Mediation Authority hearing, where a ruling will be made.