Despite toiling in a dirty and difficult environment, workers at Transpacific Industries recycling plants in Auckland and Wellington were among the poorest paid in the union.
Last year they took industrial action in support of their claims for decent pay increases but many of them were still stuck on wages not much above the legal minimum.
In Auckland workers were not even provided with overalls, although Wellington workers were.
The union decided this was intolerable and set a target of a minimum rate of $15 an hour for these workers and developed a campaign to highlight conditions in the industry and to strengthen the bargaining ability of the workers.
The Australian Transport Workers Union worked with the NDU to provide information on pay rates in different collective agreements of waste companies operating in both countries.
Organisers and delegates worked at signing up as many of the workers as possible to maximise bargaining power.
Research was done into international best practice around labour standards for waste companies contracted to local government.
Talks were held with the Auckland City Council on how good labour standards could be promoted in Council contracts.
An agreement was reached with the Labour and Green Parties to hold an inquiry into pay and conditions in the waste industry – although this has been postponed because of the general election.
This year, bargaining with Transpacifi c has produced much better results.
All workers in both Auckland and Wellington will move to a minimum of $15 an hour.
Those above will get pay increases of between 2.5 percent and 3 percent (there is some variation between the two cities).
Meal allowances are increased and improvements to other conditions, including the provision of three pairs of overalls annually to the Auckland workers, have been achieved.
There is still a long way to go for workers in this industry but this year’s results are a big step forward.
(Source: National Distribution Union)