Monday, September 11, 2006

Why you shouldn't shop Progressive

One of the reasons the supermarket distribution workers have been locked out is that they are demanding pay parity across the country and equal pay for equal work regardless of whether it is done in Auckland, Christchurch, or Palmerston North. I've been asked what's wrong with different pay rates, given that the cost of living is higher in places like Auckland, or some places may have a local labour shortage. The answer in this case is how those differences came about. And as the fact sheet shows, its a very dirty story indeed:

  • Workers are claiming an 8% wage increase and allowance parity between the four distribution centres.
  • Christchurch workers earn $1.80-$2.00 less p/hr than Palmerston North workers with Auckland workers earn 80c-$1 less p/hr.
  • The differences in allowances resulted from Progressive closing the Auckland and Christchurch Woolworths distribution centres in 2003 and rehiring the redundant workers on worse conditions.
  • These closures ended the Woolworths National Agreement.
  • Palmerston North retained their higher pay and allowances as the company could not find another location for a new distribution centre and therefore could not legally rehire workers on lower rates.

(Emphasis added)

The supermarket workers are trying to make up the ground lost when their employer unilaterally cut their wages in 2003. And for this, they've been locked out. We shouldn't support companies which treat their workers this way, so I'd encourage everyone to boycott Progressive Enterprises' supermarkets (Countdown, Foodtown and Woolworths), and if they can afford it, to donate to the lock-out fund.

Meanwhile, Progressive are playing the same game with their checkout staff, refusing to meet with them for pay negotiations unless they drop the demand for a national collective agreement (which would allow them greater bargaining power in future). If this goes on for another week, we may soon see Progressive crippled by industrial action at both ends of their supply chain...


I'd also add that Fresh Choice and Super Value stores are also owned by Progressive Enterprises.

It's abhorrent, this practice of making people redundant when all that's really changing is that their terms and conditions are being weakened.

And before someone starts bleating on about "well why don't they just get other jobs then", please don't. Why should they have to? They've been keeping up their end of the bargain, doing their work, and then all of a sudden the boss says "well you know what, I want to pay you less, give you less leave, that kind of thing, but damnit if the only legal way I can breach my employment agreement with you is to make you all redundant. You can reapply for the new jobs, identical to the old ones, if you want, but of course I, your boss, have the power over whether you get that job or not, and that's a decision I can make pretty arbitrarily and you'll never know why. What was that you said about being a union delegate? Well gee, I'm not sure your skill set is quite spot on for that new position...." etc etc ad nauseum.

Posted by Anonymous : 9/11/2006 03:00:00 PM

Choose where you shop.
Choose where you work.
Choose who you employ.
Choose how much to pay them.
Choose when to withold your labour.
Choose when to feed your family.

Maybe I'm trolling, but if we're going to allow unions to strike, shouldn't we allow businesses to as well?

Posted by Anonymous : 9/11/2006 09:07:00 PM

Plus don't forget Woolworths Quickstops, in service stations. Unfortunately I did yesterday, and by then the petrol was already in the car :-(

Posted by Anonymous : 9/12/2006 09:44:00 AM

Alternatively, buy only items which are almost sold out already. Accelerating the emptying of the shelves might be more effective than boycotting them in the long run, as it will discourage people who don't care about the lockout from shopping at Progressive.

Posted by Commie Mutant Traitor : 9/12/2006 05:27:00 PM

I wrote to Progressive after shopping at their Countdown ,Highbury Site ,pointing out that there were a number of items that we would have bought but could not as they were out of stock and that our bill was $50-60 lower than usual.
I suggested that Lockouts and strikes solve nothing and hat they needed to start talking and get an agreement. This is what came back.

From: customerinfo
Subject: RE: Stock Shortages
Date: 7 September 2006 12:14:23 PM

Thank you for your feedback regarding the current industrial action and the out of stocks we are experiencing.

We understand that situations such as this create strong feeling and that opinion can be divided on the issue. I would like to briefly outline the
reasons for our actions to date so that you are aware of these in considering the matter.

The unions representing our three grocery distribution centres are demanding
what is in effect a 30 percent increase in employment costs. No business -including ours, can meet such unreasonable and unrealistic demands. To do so would result in higher food prices in New Zealand supermarkets and
threaten the livelihoods of our 18,000 plus staff, our suppliers and our very business.

Progressive is committed to delivering the lowest possible grocery prices for New Zealanders and this means we pay particular attention to costs
within our business. At the same time we ensure fair wage rates are paid to all of our staff.

The current situation is unfortunate, however we cannot make a decision based purely on the interests of striking union members, who represent less than three per cent of our workforce. Despite this action our supermarkets remain open and we are endeavouring to provide the very best service we can.

I hope you understand that our position is based on needing to consider what is in the best interests of our customers, staff and the business.

Yours sincerely,

Marty Hamnett
Managing Director
Progressive Enterprises Ltd

Posted by Anonymous : 9/12/2006 11:07:00 PM