E tū members at Sistema have secured a huge victory, with all production workers off work on full pay for the next four weeks.
Sistema claims to be an essential service and had originally told workers they would be working through the Alert Level 4 shutdown period.
The members were not satisfied with the lax approach to health and safety, so they left the building and refused to do anymore work on Wednesday, until they could be sure it was safe.
After a WorkSafe visit today, the company has now told workers that they will not have to report to work and will be on full pay for the next four weeks.
E tū member and production worker at Sistema, Ilisapesi Talanoa, has a lot of gratitude for her colleagues.
“A big thank you to union and non-union members for standing up for what’s right. You’ve stood up to protect yourself and your family,” she says.
“I’m so proud that everyone came together to fight for our health and safety. Our first priority is our people.”
Ilisapesi also has a message for all Kiwis: “Be safe, be kind, and much love.”
E tū organiser Mat Danaher says that this result wouldn’t have happened without the members taking matters into their own hands.
“Let’s make no mistake, this is a direct result of workers coming together to defend the safety of themselves, their family, and their community,” Mat says.
“Many Kiwis will remember the struggles that Sistema workers have been through. They’ve learnt that they have real power over their work lives when they stand up for each other.”
Mat says that the classification of essential services is quickly becoming a massive concern as the New Zealand workforce deals with the COVID-19 impacts and restrictions.
“There are two main issues. The first is the risk of employers dubiously claiming that they are an essential service because they are somewhere along the supply chain for actual essential services. We will need a lot more clarity around this in the coming days.
“The second issue is that those who actually qualify as essential services are often completely unprepared for working safely, such as by providing PPE and giving workers enough physical distance from each other.
“Both issues mean that unions and Government need to ensure WorkSafe, the Labour Inspectorate, and workers themselves are vigilant to ensure the virus can’t spread through unsafe work.
“Until then, workers around New Zealand should learn from Sistema workers’ brilliant example – to stay safe, we have to use our collective power. Every decision we make to slow the spread of the virus will save lives, and there’s nothing more important than that.”