Sistema is owned by the US-based Newell Brands, a large multinational that produces plastic containers. The new Sistema factory in Manakau, Auckland, New Zealand employs around 500 process workers. Before this collective agreement, the workers who are mostly migrant workers from Pacific Islands, India and the Philippines, were paid the legal minimum in wages and conditions, with very long working hours, and no structured way to raise their concerns with management.
Throughout the year-long campaign the management refused to bargain in good faith, or offer any increase in wages and conditions, above the legal minimum.
IndustriALL Global Union and the United Steelworkers wrote to the Sistema Plastics CEO, demanding that the company negotiates in good faith, a new agreement that improves the unacceptable wages and conditions.
After months of being frustrated by the management stalling negotiations, workers took industrial action for the first time in late November, when the night shift workers walked out. The day shift workers walked out two days later and formed a large picket in front of the plant. Other strikes followed and were voted for by over 90 per cent of the members voting to strike.
The determined workers’ struggle delivered an improved offer from management that was accepted by a workers’ ballot last week. The deal will lift wages by about 16 per cent for all members, by April 2020. Also included are provisions so that workers are always paid a margin above the minimum wage.
Sistema has also agreed to regular meetings between union delegates and its management to resolve issues.
“The agreement is a big step forward and will see us working in a much better workplace than before,” says E tū delegate and Sistema worker, Maria Latu.
E tū advocate, Mat Danaher said:
“These are low paid workers, who work extremely long hours. They’ve been prepared to walk off the job numerous times to get what they want at considerable personal cost. Through it all they’ve stood strong, and this is a well-deserved win.”
IndustriALL assistant general secretary Kemal Özkan said,
“We are proud to be associated from afar with these inspirational E tū members. The example set by the Sistema workers is that when you stand united, and demand respect, you win your union rights. Great job comrades.”
Link to E tū Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/EtuUnion/
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