Food and beverage workers of New Zealand’s Unite union walked off the job at SkyCity Hamilton casino calling for a living wage, and salarial parity with their Auckland colleagues, as reported by Unite organizer Joe Carolan. SkyCity has expressed its disappointment in the union’s strike action before going to mediation.
Unite’s national secretary John Crocker said SkyCity is one of the wealthiest companies in New Zealand, but its workers in Hamilton get less than their Auckland colleagues. Crocker said he hopes the strike prompts SkyCity to make a better offer.
Carolan said the pandemic has led to “huge changes” in how people work, and hospitality workers are no longer willing to work long hours without living wages. “We are going to strike hard in hospitality this year. This is an industry that is well overdue”.
The strike was announced by Unite in a notice which indicated it would take place on December 31st, making it the world’s first workplace strike of the year. It involved around 40 workers, most of whom have only recently unionized.
A SkyCity spokeswoman said the company was committed to finding a resolution, and had sought a mediation session with the union.
Due to the restrictions brought about by the pandemic, hospitality business owners have claimed they could not afford to pay more. However, Carolan dismissed the idea and stated that “they’re not going to restart in the old way”, indicating people used to “suck up” bad conditions due to the fear of being replaced, which is no longer the case as labor is in demand and people can also switch to other industries where conditions, career pathways and pay are better. “That’s what’s happening in the marketplace”, he said.
Negotiations between the union and SkyCity over Hamilton pay have been going on for a year, according to Carolan. “Unite hopes to unionize and lead strikes across this sector in 2022 – we believe it’s time for a fair pay agreement in the hospitality sector”.