Workers responsible for maintaining and repairing Auckland’s passenger trains are being suspended en masse for 30 days by their employer, CAF NZ, in a move their union labels a “declaration of war”.
Rail & Maritime Transport Union members were set to begin partial strike action against CAF, in an attempt to campaign for fairer wages without causing excessive disruption to commuters.
The company has responded with an aggressive 30 day lockout that will cause severe disruptions to the Auckland passenger network, drastically reducing the number of trains available.
CAF, short for Construcciones y Auxiliar de Ferrocarriles, is an infamous Spanish owned labour-hire company with a global reputation for exploiting migrant workers and driving down industry standards.
CAF’s largely migrant workforce are paid 13% less than those doing the same or similar work for other companies, such as KiwiRail.
“These skilled and dedicated people make it possible for the trains to run on time, and all they want is to be paid the market rate,” says RMTU organiser Rudd Hughes.
“When we get on board a train we assume it’ll be a safe journey, and when we arrive safely at our destination we have them to thank.”
If maintenance staff are locked out and prevented from working by their employer for 30 days, rail workers elsewhere in Auckland Transport’s Metro network cannot be confident in the safety of their machines and will face health and safety challenges.
“Passenger safety is our top priority, and our members will not allow a foreign corporation to risk lives with its arrogant, cost-cutting agenda,” says Mr Hughes.
“If CAF workers are prevented from safely maintaining Auckland’s trains, those trains will stop moving.”
CAF bosses have openly stated that their refusal to pay fair wages is “not a question of affordability”.
“This company pays below market wages to vulnerable migrant workers, and gets away with it thanks to conditions in their visa status,” says Mr Hughes.
“The profits made by this exploitation are funnelled overseas, and these workers have had enough – we will not be bullied into submission.”