Fisheries workers on strike. Source: First Union
Fisheries workers at the country's largest iwi-owned fishing company, Moana New Zealand, are taking strike action today and demanding to be paid the living wage.
Staff at the Ruakaka site in Northland will be walking off the job from today until Monday morning, April 29.
First Union says workers have "watched in frustration as the company they work for brings in millions, while staff try to live off wages that barely float above the minimum wage".
Union spokesperson Emir Hodzic says the company claims it cannot afford to pay workers the living wage, which is due to increase to $21.15 in September.
The living wage is a voluntary minimum wage agreed to by employers which takes into account the cost of living and is defined as "the income necessary to provide workers and their families with the basic necessities of life."
“Moana New Zealand has reported a net profit after tax of $21.4 million for the year ending 30th September 2018. This is up on the previous year’s profit of $19.3 million. It also declared a dividend of $8.6 million of which over 50 iwi shareholders will receive,” says Hodzic.
Worker Erica Poa is one of 15 workers going on strike. She says an increase in pay would help her whānau.
“In this region, there aren’t many jobs. It would mean a lot to us workers at Moana who are struggling to support our families.”
Poa says staff are faced with financial challenges including the living costs due to the hike in the rental prices in the area.
Travel costs are also an issue since many workers are required to travel up to 45 minutes to get to work.
Poa says staff should also be better valued considering the work they do which involves harvesting, grading, heavy lifting and working in the dark.
"We just hope that the company comes back to the table and reconsiders their offers," says Poa.
According to the union, Moana made one offer of wages, stating that further increases would result in redundancies.
“The offer would be just three percent above current minimum wage. Just floating above the minimum wage is not how you care for and value your workers,” says Hodzic.
Moana commit to finding a resolution
Moana New Zealand told Te Ao they were first notified about the strike action on Wednesday afternoon.
"Over the past six weeks, Moana New Zealand has been in collective bargaining negotiations with the union and the Moana New Zealand union delegates," the company said in a media statement.
"These discussions will continue as we look to find a [resolution] for all parties."