Youth rates de­cried

Central Leader - - NEWS - By DANIELLE STREET

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.’’

Photo: GRA­HAME COX

Stop work: Unionised Pak ‘n Save staff protested af­ter a break­down in pay ne­go­ti­a­tions.

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