Youth rates decried
SUPERMARKET staff are going back to the bargaining table following a workers’ protest to prevent youth rates being introduced in their store.
Pak ‘n Save Royal Oak was the scene of a noisy demonstration after pay talks broke down in a number of Foodstuffs-owned supermarkets.
Unionised workers stopped work and met with staff from five other Pak ‘n Saves as well as staff from Foodstuffs’ two Auckland distribution centres.
From May 1 employers can pay a starting out wage of $11 an hour to 16 and 17-year-olds, which is 20 per cent lower than the adult minimum wage of $13.75.
The starting out rates can also be paid to 18 and 19-year-olds who have been on a benefit for six months.
Several other large retail chains including Countdown, Farmers and Bunnings, have confirmed they will not be using youth rates.
But Pak ‘n Save proposed implementing youth rates during contract negotiations with the union.
Retail secretary for FIRST Union Maxine Gay says the company is chasing an opportunity to get away with paying young workers less in order to make even greater profits. Ms Gay says the protest was intended to send a clear message that it will not be tolerated.
‘‘The owners of Pak ’n Save are, for the most part, extremely wealthy, so there is no reason to pay starvation wages, especially when your competition is doing the opposite,’’ she says.
But BusinessNZ chief executive Phil O’Reilly is defending youth rates and says unions should not be picketing against a lawful activity.
‘‘A young unskilled person is disadvantaged in competing against more experienced and trained people in the labour market,’’ he says.
‘‘Starting wages help young people gain experience and better equip them to be able to compete on stronger terms.’’
As well as youth rates the supermarket had proposed implementing 90-day trial periods for staff and had offered a zero wage increase.
Ms Gay says the union has been negotiating with Pak ’n Save Royal Oak since last year and another 12 months is too long to wait for a rise.
Since the protest Pak ’n Save has indicated to the union it has a revised position and will go back into bargaining shortly.
‘‘We are pleased they have asked to resume bargaining,’’ Ms Gay says.
Although the union cannot pre-empt the bargaining process, it hopes for a positive outcome
A spokeswoman for Pak ’ n Save Royal Oak declined to comment as negotiations are ongoing.
‘‘While this process is under way we don’t feel it is appropriate to comment further.’’
Stop work: Unionised Pak ‘n Save staff protested after a breakdown in pay negotiations.