Thursday, February 21, 2008

Don't shop at Bunnings

While John Key is talking about tax cuts and wage cuts to "close the gap" with Australia, there's a perfect example of the wage-gap and its causes happening right now. Bunnings Warehouse is an Australian-owned hardware chain. It pays its New Zealand workers the minimum wage of NZ$12 / hour. In Australia, it pays well above the minimum wage - NZ$18.44 / hour, which will increase to NZ$19/hour in July (the Australian minimum wage is A$13.74 or NZ$15.80 / hour). The reason for this difference? In Australia, they stil have unions, whereas in New Zealand collective bargaining was stifled by National's Employment Contracts Act.

As The Standard points out, no amount of tax cuts will close that gap in salary (particularly since, in the case of National, they'll be given to other people. Giving someone else a tax cut doesn't help low-wage workers one bit). The only way it is going to happen is by actually raising wages. Unfortunately, that requires employers to come to the party, and in Bunnings' case, they just won't. The NDU has been attempting to negotiate a wage rise for the past nine months, and Bunnings has refused to talk to them. The profit margins of their Australian owners trump paying their workers a decent wage.

Currently, Bunnings is facing low-level industrial action. But I think its at the stage where the public should show our disapproval. If we want wages to rise, then we need to stand together against the Aussie sweatshops who are pillaging our communities. You can start by calling Bunnings' hotline - 0800 HARDWARE - or emailing their New Zealand General Manager and telling them to negotiate with their workers. But most importantly, we need to vote with our feet and our wallets and refuse to shop there until they start paying their workers a decent wage.