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McAlpines Sawmill workers unhappy with 2pc

Date of Release: 
Friday, March 9, 2012

Striking Rotorua McAlpines Sawmill workers took their wage dispute to the street in protest over a pay increase they say isn't enough to support their families.

The 42 workers picketed outside the Vaughan Rd business yesterday waving placards and chanting "workers' rights are under attack - fight back". Many motorists sounded their car horns in support.

The workers' union, First Union, began negotiations this week seeking a 4.5 per cent pay rise but were offered 2 per cent and decided to strike indefinitely until the dispute is settled.Rotorua Daily Post

The strike has surprised the workers' employers who say the timber processing industry in New Zealand is facing very difficult times and they will continue to negotiate in good faith "with job perservation in mind".

Worker Alby Lawrence, who has been working at McAlpines for five years, told The Daily Post $14 an hour wasn't enough to support his family, including two young children.

"It's very hard to survive. We are working for nothing. All we want is enough to live on," he said.

It's the first time fellow staff member Jerry Gardiner has been part of a picket line.

He said he had worked for the firm for 30 years and while he was retiring soon, felt it was important to support his fellow workers as many had young families.

"I'm hoping for a good outcome because I feel sorry for them. Many of them have young kids and they are making it tough ... I felt I had to support them," he said.

First Union spokesman Ra Daniels said the offer wasn't acceptable. "The offer is too low. It was just 2 per cent with a wage freeze for two years for workers. What we asked for is a real liveable increase," he said.

"They are [on strike] indefinitely at this stage."

McAlpines Sawmills has sites in Rotorua, Nelson and Christchurch. Rotorua site manager Graeme Bell said management were surprised at the action taken by staff and the union, as wage negotiations had only just begun.

About 10 staff were not union members and did not strike.

"We are very surprised that the union members have taken this action as negotiations for a renewed collective agreement have just begun.

McAlpines will continue to bargain in good faith and to manage its business prudently and with job preservation in mind, during what are very difficult times in the timber processing industry in New Zealand," he said.

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