An open letter to Rob Campbell, Chair of the Board of SkyCity Entertainment Group


Dear Mr Campbell,

In a recent media interview you said:

We should continue to focus on working conditions and pay which realistically reflect the markets in which we work, which are internally fair, and which encourage people to enjoy and grow in their work.

We have plenty to do, and if there are unions which represent our employees and are on that journey they are welcome participants.”

Unite Union is offering to have the discussion needed to fix these problems

SkyCity Entertainment Group announced in June that earnings are expected to be up $50 million to $250 million and net profit up 33% to between $84 and $88 million. SkyCity has done incredibly well through the Covid crisis, temporary downturn and recovery.

SkyCity collected $31 million in Government-funded wage subsidies and laid off 1000 staff to reduce its workforce to from 3200 to 2200 employees. It seems the number of staff cut was bigger than needed because all the remaining staff are being expected to work with short-staffing in every department.

SkyCity also used the crisis to slash the entitlements of remaining staff to guaranteed hours and fixed shift patterns. This is a direct threat to their mental well-being and health and safety which you also addressed as a concern for you in the media.

TDB Recommends

At the moment the hotel and hospitality sector is facing a crisis in the labour market. It is proving difficult to attract labour to work in the sector at the wages being offered for the degree of skill, effort and “flexibility” that is demanded. That is true of SkyCity also.

This sector also relied on migrant labour in the past to an unhealthy extent. It was able to use the desire of migrants to one day transition to residency to put up with wages and conditions many Kiwi workers would not accept. This source of labour has now been cut off for the foreseeable future given the Covid crisis.

Major retail employers like Bunnings and Countdown are now living wage employers with a start rate of $22.10. Why would anyone work at SkyCity with its gruelling, unsafe, 24-7 schedule when they can get a days-only job with a start rate at least $2 an hour more?

All the other major hotels Unite negotiates with are living wage employers also.

The start rate at SkyCity at $20.10, is now only 10 cents an hour above the minimum wage or 0.05%..

Margins for skill and service have been radically compressed at SkyCity over the period since Unite negotiated its first collective agreement in 2008. In 2008 the start rate of $12.81 was 7% above the minimum wage of $12 an hour. A three-year rate was established of $15 an hour which was 25% above the minimum wage. This rate is now only 10% above.

All positions on the start rate like cleaners, stewards, waiters and housekeepers have lost these margins. Other margins for skill have halved or more.

We need to restructure pay at SkyCity to reward staff for their skills and service and the unhealthy unsocial hours they must work. There clearly needs to be a substantial wage movement to do so.

This can occur in one or a combination of three approaches.

  1. To become a living wage employer with the current rates moving up by at least $2 an hour.
  2. Paying staff substantially more to work shifts overnights and on weekends.
  3. Restoring margins for skill and service by paying all staff a percentage margin above the start rate for their position after three years.

I am happy to meet with you to have an adult discussion on these issues at any time.

Yours sincerely,

Mike Treen,


Unite Union

Percentage paid above the minimum wage at SkyCity in 2008 and 2021

2008 rate 2008 % above minimum wage 2021 Rate 2021 % above Minimum wage
Minimum Wage $12.00 $20.00
Minimum start rate $12.81 6.75% $20.10 0.05%
3-year Minimum rate $15.00 25.00% $20.90 4.50%
Bartender $14.05 17.08% $21.07 5.35%
Bartender Senior $16.00 33.33% $23.62 18.10%
Senior Duty Steward $15.10 25.83% $23.57 17.85%
Cleaner, Steward, Waiter $12.81 6.75% $20.10 0.05%
Guest Service Rep $15.10 25.83% $22.78 13.90%
Contact Centre Rep $16.26 35.50% $21.85 9.25%
Dealer (1 Major Game) $16.73 39.42% $22.49 12.45%
Dealer (4 Major Games) $18.37 53.08% $24.68 23.40%
Cashier $16.04 33.67% $21.56 7.80%
Gaming Machine Attendant $16.02 33.50% $21.54 7.70%
Gaming Machine Tech $19.31 60.92% $25.96 29.80%
Customer Service Amb. $19.58 67.50% $20.56 2.80%
Security Officer (entry) $15.60 30.00% $20.97 4.85%
Security Officer Grade 1 $17.70 47.50% $23.21 16.05%
Premier Host $16.02 33.50% $21.54 7.70%
Stage Hand $17.25 43.75% $23.19 15.95%
Logistics Warehouse Ass $15.29 27.42% $20.54 2.70%


  1. Well good luck with all that when Rob Campbell is saying that the market rules, then blathers about workers enjoying their work just because he’s enjoying his. We ‘re not all dingbats out here, and we’ve had a gutsful of pr soft soap.

  2. These capitalist characters do not know their history, a cursory glance of the century’s during the great waves of the Black death would educate them otherwise. Yesteryears world has gone, today, people will not settle for the substandard and bogus wages set during the Roger Douglas and Ruth Richardson years. And neither should they. Trickle down never worked then and surely is held up for the lies and parody it is now.

    And NO we don’t need anymore cheap migrant labour when we have sufficient workers of our own to employ.

    The 36 year long neo liberal shafting and ripping off of NZ workers is over. You either pay or you see your business fail.

    The choice is yours.

    The Economic Impact of the Black Death – EH.Net › encyclopedia › the-economic-impact-of-…

    • Rob Campbell does know. If he’s the Rob Campbell I know. Was a unionist who was instrumental in the 1984 Rogernomics coup by moving into corporate management under the title of being a unionist. He had a bushy moustache back then. Remarkably youthful and happy by this photo if he is that fellow. Nothing like freeing yourself of the people to perk you up.

  3. If I’m right, and the photo doesn’t dissuade me, why hasn’t he retired? Nearly 40 years on from putting the rich before the poor.

    • “How do these people sleep at night?”
      I’m not sure @ ILCS but I bet it isn’t vulnerably in a cold, shop doorway on an opened out cardboard box in clothes that haven’t been washed for five days.

  4. I knew Mr Campbell well during the late 70s to mid 80s in union settings including marches, campaigns and executives. He was talented and good company, and co-opted as an academic into the union movement by senior people. Academics can be great allies but are often the first to vacillate when the heat goes on.

    After his cancer treatment Rob reassessed his life imo and chose “me” which is fair enough for anyone that faces such existential stress. But, he never returned to the working class fold, becoming a share trader and eventually corporate board member and valued associate of Finance Capital.

    He promotes the “ok guy” face to media, but the facts at Sky City speak for themselves–sackings, slashing conditions, human wreckage, nasty union busting tactics, and allegiance to the the employing class first and foremost.

    • The middle class betrayed Labour. With their social issues over realer issues, which were, admittedly, going mostly well in those times. It looks like Campbell has had a very happy life.

      Great hurrahs to my age peers who grew up in the shadow of the Welfare State and remember its benefits, and have fought for those, and will, so, die poor. I despise the 84ists with their great lumps of money. They didn’t understand the roof under which they grew, ignored their ‘context’.

  5. I hope they keep the low wage migrant workers out that are lowering wage in NZ. (not the migrants themselves lowering NZ wages but the system that allows low paid workers into NZ with laughable skills that could be employing workers in NZ with the right conditions, aka better wages and training schemes for locals).

    Sky city has become addicted to high profits with a seemingly poor, socially irresponsible business plan. The taxpayers seem to be continually probing their venture up and they fail anyway (sky city fire, more gambling rights etc).

    Sky city was known for being involved in money laundering criminal cash but government did nothing., We don’t see the police on the door step of Skycity under the proceeds of crime act.

    Not just NZ Skycity – sounds like OZ has similar problems with criminals linked to gambling at Skycity venues.

    For those that don’t know, apparently it is not uncommon for workers to work a shift and then if not busy they are laid off without pay for the hours they were supposed to work, then expected to come in if it gets busy later…. etc Like the bus driver shortage in NZ, these types of arrangements are not fair for workers where there are big gaps and power imbalances.

  6. This is interesting…
    “Dan Price: the CEO who slashed his salary by $1 million.”
    ” Seattle-based entrepreneur Dan Price hit headlines around the world in 2015 when he slashed his own salary by $1 million so he could start paying his all employees a minimum salary of $70,000.
    The chief executive of Gravity Payments received plenty of praise for the move as well as a raft of criticism, with Price coming under fire from right-wing media outlets who dubbed him a socialist.
    Six years on, his company’s business has tripled and staff turnover has halved, and they’ve bounced back from the blow of the pandemic. However, Price says the experiment hasn’t been entirely successful. He talked to Kim Hill.”
    Now? Spare a thought for rush limbaugh. No doubt a self titled titan of the media industry.
    Neon. Film.
    And while I’m at it? Spare another thought for these guys and their families.
    The Guardian.
    “Bangladesh factory fire: Owner arrested after blaze kills 52”

  7. What I can’t understand is why the unions do not advocate a minimum redundancy payment to stop the lazy habit NZ employers have to just automatically lay someone off when ever they feel like it, only to re hire and loudly complain to media and government they can’t find anyone because all local’s are lazy. (Funny enough if you are a business that constantly lays your staff off, normal employees won’t work for you and previous employees won’t work for you either, you cannibalise your own workforce. Thus in NZ we have the over reliance of new migrants workers who don’t know the bad employers of NZ to avoid working for).

    Not just Skycity, the practise is rampant in NZ.

    Smiths City advertises for new staff days after making 115 redundant

    Just making employers pay a month of salary automatically as a minimum, would stop this practise and actually help both employers who “somehow” can’t attract local staff anymore as well as the workers who get left with constant wage gaps from this widespread practise.

    It sounds like the government are thinking about some complicated redundancy insurance scheme that puts all the problems on the government and employees. Nope do what the rest of the world do, make it easy with compulsory redundancy from employers and they will find that it is easy and uncomplicated and puts the responsibility on the employer hiring and firing willy nilly, to stop their practices.

    Also the ERA process is broken. For a start ERA need to rebrand to do all labour cases no matter what the status is. AKA gig economy, employment and contract all under the same ‘labour’ umbrella to stop employers deciding to make everyone a gig worker and contractor to avoid any responsibility. Again government sends the wrong message and encourages the opposite behaviour to what they should be trying to achieve. What employer is going to choose to employ a employee when they avoid most of their responsibilities by hiring them as a contractor or in another form like gig worker?

    Decades of this has backfired and now many just are so sick of the broken system they do not want to try and work. Does this make them lazy or does it make sense when you have to put up with the appalling and dysfunctional and non sustainable conditions that workers face in NZ? Doesn’t seem to be happening in OZ!

  8. Good stuff Mike, whilst TDB is great, shame your letter isn’t in the mainstream media if we still have such a thing.

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