SkyCity CEO Nigel Morrison has defended the employment practices at his company in an “Opinion” piece entitled “Human Capital key to corporate success” in the NZ Herald on Thursday.
A number of his claims are misleading, contain only partial truths or are exaggerations. In one important respect when discussing a SkyCity worker what he says is simply untrue.
To pride oneself on being a non-minimum wage employer when the start rate for many positions in the employment agreement is only 10 cents above the minimum wage is a partial truth at best. Apprentice chefs are also paid less than the minimum wage so to say “all” SkyCity employees are paid above is not accurate.
To boast about the training staff receive when the company deliberately changed its policy in order to stop paying trainee table game dealers during their training is a bit misleading. Now when SkyCity takes employees from WINZ, the taxpayer is paying a benefit to the worker during unpaid staff training. They then subsidise their wages for a period if subsequently employed.
To praise the fact that the casino provides subsidised food and car parks when SkyCity is one of the only casinos in the world where this is not free is an exaggeration at best. In addition, the availability of parking is not guaranteed in the planned Convention Centre development which will require the demolition of the existing staff car park.
He also doesn’t explain why two-thirds of his staff are only given part-time contracts with only 8 hours a week guaranteed to them when this is such a large 24/7 business company that it could operate rosters with two-thirds full-time staff without additional costs.
Mr Morrison claims that SkyCity prides itself on being an “employer of choice”. This is certainly true for the 90 plus SkyCity cleaning services staff members which the company is in the process of outsourcing to OCS. The vast majority of them would prefer to remain SkyCity employees but contrary to Morrison’s claim that SkyCity “works very hard to…retain the very best people”, SkyCity is more than happy to dismiss them from its service and transfer their employment to a contractor treating them like property rather than people
However, when Mr Morrison discussed the situation of Carolyn Alpine, a member of Unite Union at SkyCity, he was, in our view, simply not telling the truth. Carolyn had bravely challenged the company about her situation at the company AGM on October 17. She accused the company of cutting her regular shifts from two to one a week. The solo mother, has worked at the company for 15 years. Speaking through tears in her voice she told the AGM: “I’ve been part time for 11 years, working for 2 shifts per week which, being a solo mother, has got me through. You are now dictating that I can only have 1 shift a week, no consultation, nothing, just suddenly turned up on my roster. I can’t live on 1 shift a week.”
Mr Morrison writes: “The staff member has not had her shifts reduced from two to one a week” and “She has been offered between two and four shifts a week.” Not true. Carolyn had worked a guaranteed minimum of two shifts a week for 11 years. She was given rosters in September that included four future weeks with only one shift allocated. She had to ask for additional shifts which she received for two of the weeks. For the other two weeks she worked one 8-hour shift only.
Mr Morrison writes: “I need to stress also that we have most certainly not reduced her pay.” Not true. Carolyn’s pay was reduced from 16 to 8 hours for at least those two weeks referred to in the above paragraph.
Mr Morrison claimed that all table games staff are being asked “to work a more flexible roster, across the week, to better reflect the times when people want to visit our casino”. Carolyn Alpine has worked the two busiest shifts of the week on Friday and Saturday night at the companies request for 11 years. These are shifts that many staff want to avoid. Having staff dedicated to these shifts that want to work them makes sense. It suited both sides for 11 years.
The “extensive period of consultation” he claimed occurred before the change was made, happened 15 months prior to the reduction in our member’s hours. She was not consulted over the reduction in hours this September, in breach of her collective agreement. SkyCity did in fact “act unilaterally” despite Mr Morrison’s denial to the contrary. Moreover the union raised the issue to have fixed immediately. This was on September 15 – a month before the AGM. Since then, the company has refused to restore her guarantee of two shifts in every communication, including a meeting with their HR department immediately after the company AGM.
Mr Morrison says he was concerned over the media attention regarding this case and that he had “taken a personal interest in the case since SkyCity’s reputation as a first class employer is very important to me.” However, he has not set the record straight but continued to spread untrue information about the facts of the case in an attempt to protect SkyCity’s image. How Morrison expected to go unchallenged on this lie when the information is available is perplexing, and he cannot claim to be misinformed as the union wrote to him the day before his article was published to correct his facts.
As Mr Morrison concludes there are in fact two sides to every story. In this case there are the facts versus a nice story he has made up to deceive the public and protect the image of a monopolistic casino operator.
By Mike Treen (Unite National Director) and John Crocker (Unite SkyCity Organiser)