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Bunnings workers strike to close wage gap

Written By: - Date published: 2:05 pm, February 21st, 2008 - 41 comments
Categories: workers' rights - Tags:

bunnings-200.jpgWhile media, politicians and the Kiwi blogosphere are arguing about the wage gap with Australia, around four hundred NDU members at Bunnings Warehouse are taking matters into their own hands with a two-hour nationwide strike action today.

Bunnings workers in New Zealand start on just $12 an hour compared to $19 for their counterparts in Australia. This is from a company that could afford to give its Australian CEO a raise of 61% recently, bringing his salary up to more than $6 million or, in an ordinary wage earner’s terms, $2,885 an hour.

It also brings some context to the wages debate. No amount of tax cuts will give these workers the $7 pay rise they’d get from moving across the ditch, and to pretend that’s the case is just dishonest.

These workers have unionised themselves in an industry that had the guts torn out of it by the Employment Contracts Act and are standing together to fight for decent wages. They deserve our full support.

You can help by calling your local Bunnings store manager on 0800 HARDWARE or by emailing Bunnings New Zealand’s General Manager at brad.cranston@bunnings.co.nz. Tell them to get back to the table and pay their workers properly.

More info at NDU.

41 comments on “Bunnings workers strike to close wage gap ”

  1. Steve Pierson 1

    Good to see ordinary kiwis standing up and demanding their bosses stop expoliting them.

    I worry what would happen to people like these if National ever gets to introduce its union breaking laws.

  2. mike 2

    Yes and its also Nationals fault that their Aussie counterparts are more productive, pay a lot less tax have cheaper homeloans and pay less for petrol/food etc…

  3. Steve Pierson 3

    It was under National that the wage gap opened up.

    Under Labour the gap has stayed steady (which has required NZ wages to grow faster than Aussie ones, once National let us fall so far behind it becomes very hard to catch up)

    captcha: “difficulty of”. quite

  4. Santi 4

    “I worry what would happen to people like these if National ever gets to introduce its union breaking laws.”

    Why would you worry? Are you afraid of losing your grip on power, aren’t you? Don’t claim concern for the workers for whom you got none, otherwise you would be complaining and shouting loudly about the miser Minister of Finance who denies the workers the share of their money via rapacious taxation.

    Steve, spare me the pain of seeing you playing the concerned unionist.

  5. Yes Santi – that’s right. Naughty Dr. Cullen. Now who says wages need to “drop” again? Oh that’s right John Key.

    Oh and by the way Santi, fuck off.

  6. Tane 6

    the miser Minister of Finance who denies the workers the share of their money via rapacious taxation.

    You really are a walking, talking National Party spin machine are’t you Santi?

    Taxation in New Zealand is not out of line with other countries and it’s certainly not an issue for people on $12 an hour who’d pay the bottom rate anyway (what is it, 19.5%?). What taxes do mean is that these families can now take their kids to the doctor, give them a decent education and live in a society where they need not live in fear of poverty and indignity in old age.

    The tax system is the least of these workers’ problems. What they need is higher wages, and it’s good to see they’re standing up for themselves.

  7. mike 7

    Oh dear I think the lefties are a bit niggly cause Labour President has just offered to resign – how long until clark follows… http://www.nzherald.co.nz/section/1/story.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10493743

  8. Steve Pierson 8

    He needn’t have offered to resign, but it is better when a public figure makes the offer over a small thing, rather than refusing to do so over a big thing (oh, like, saying kiwis wages should be lower, for example)

  9. Tane 9

    Mike brother, you’re a punter in this game but I’ll let you off this time. Williams ain’t going anywhere, it was an offer as he felt he’d let the party down, and the PM rightly rejected it. Bugger, guess that means it’s back to Key’s wage drop revelations eh?

  10. The Double Standard 10

    Tane – since you seem to have all the stats on this issue I wonder if you have anything on the number of workers per store in NZ vs Oz?

    After all, it’d be a shame if asking for a wage rise ended up in job losses of some of those striking wouldn’t it?

    Of course, it could be that the Bunnings shareholders are just greedy rich pricks.

    Interesting to find that the Jacks Links staff were striking a few years back for higher wages, then found themselves laid off because the business wasn’t making money. Another little oops from Anderton’s “Jobs Machine”

  11. Santi 11

    Tane, defender of the poor and champion of the workers:
    what would happen if as a result of your proposed wage increase a number of small businesses in NZ are no longer viable and had to lay their workers off?

    Aren’t we risking killing the golden goose in your laudable attempt?

    The end result will be more people on the dole, benefits and the like, and more nanny statism. It might be what you want, but NZ does not need that.

  12. r0b 12

    Tane, defender of the poor and champion of the workers:
    what would happen if as a result of your proposed wage increase a number of small businesses in NZ are no longer viable and had to lay their workers off?

    This same tired line has been trotted out every time Labour has raised the minimum wage, which is every year for the last 8 years. And yet, strangely, the unemployment rate is at a 20 year low.

  13. Tim 13

    The minimum wage has increased dramatically over the past few years and the unemployment rate has dropped dramatically too. There is no evidence to show that wage increases mean job losses in this country.

    Businesses aren’t going to be run into the ground if wages increase, they just won’t be able to compete with each other by continually reducing labour costs (a euphemism for wage cuts).

  14. Tim

    A fair point, but there is a lot more going on in an economy than minimum wage settings and unemployment figures. It would be difficult to make a categorical claim one way or another based simply on NZ’s headline unemployment stats of the last few years.

  15. Phil 15

    The starting wage in Aus ($18.44 NZD – which is $16.04 AUD) is nominally better than the starting wage here ($12 NZD). However, there’s no discussion of living costs, no discussion of the relative profit margin of Bunnings here vs Aus, and no consideration of the rate at which people move off the starting salary,and no mention of any other independant costs of hiring or training staff.

    All these things could go toward explaining the difference in starting rates, and it pays not to go off half-cocked.

  16. Phil 16

    With respect to minimum wage, it needs to be noted that increases during the last decade have FOLLOWED ON FROM rises in the general level of income (look at Stats NZ’s LCI and/or QES…)

    It could quite reasonably be argued that in such cases there will be no impact whatsoever on unemployment. Additionally, it could also be argued that legislating the minimum wage in such cases has done nothing what-so-ever for workers, as their wages were already on the increase anyway.

  17. Steve Pierson 17

    So, just to be clear Phil. You are arguing these workers should not be striking over the fact they are being paid $12 an hour.

    And your arguemnt over minimum wages is wrong. If you read the submissions around minimum wage rate increases you would see they are not tied to prior increase in average wages. No: National did not raise the minium wage until force to by New Zealand First, and since Laobur has come to power there have been 8 (on April 1, 9) increases in the minimum wage. Not raising the minimum wage is an ideological, not an economic decision.

    National has always opposed reaising the minimum wage: check out KBB’s graph of the minimum wage going right back to 1977. http://kiwiblogblog.wordpress.com/2007/12/18/hmm-who-to-trust/

  18. Interesting footnote to the NDU release illustrates the unions dishonesty:

    “Wesfarmers, Bunnings parent-company and Australia’s biggest company”

    Tell that to BHP. Elsewhere Wesfarmers is rated at Australia’s 17th largest company.

    When they lie in such ways in one part of a press release, it makes me wonder what other lies are present. In particular how accurate is the wage comparison?

  19. Good to see you’ve got that research unit hard at work, Frank. A productivity example to us all. Oh no, wait a minute you don’t produce anything but spam. How ironic.

  20. insider 20

    So the logic is, because the company pays workers $X in one country the workers in another country should be paid the same?

    Where does this ‘logic’ end? Should I be paid the same as a US employee of the same company? What about a Brit or a Fijian or a Chinese?

    It seems a rather lame protest with little principle to it.

    Perhaps someone can explain it to me

  21. Bart 21

    You keep talking about the wage gap that opened up under National. FFS, that was 8 years ago. Labour have had nearly 9 years to fix it.

    Is it fixed…..????

  22. I’m afraid you’ve lost me there Mickey. Who is Frank?

    Or are you just trolling again? Do try and keep up a reasonable discussion will you, instead of spreading lies and abuse.

  23. Leftie 23

    Insider: “So the logic is, because the company pays workers $X in one country the workers in another country should be paid the same?”

    Hell yes, when the headlines from National refers to the number of Kiwis moving to Australia and the difference in hourly pay.
    Isn’t that what a reasonable employer would do?: I don’t want my knowledgable, skilled workers going down the road (or over the ditch) to work for my competitor for $X more an hour, I want to keep them, so I will pay them the same.

  24. Why Francis, you know exactly who I’m talking about. Love your work. Might catch up with you later. Yes?

  25. Matthew Pilott 25

    Bart, by your logic, shouldn’t Labour need at least nine years to undo the damage wrought by National? Far easier to destroy than build and all… They opened up the gap, Labour has managed to stop it increasing. If National didn’t drop the ball, we’d be fine, if you’re going to be so simplistic about it!

    That’s like saying Labour have had eight years to fix [insert problem here] – what you’re saying is that they are perfect, or at least should be. Nice you hold them in such high esteem!

  26. Tane 26

    You keep talking about the wage gap that opened up under National. FFS, that was 8 years ago. Labour have had nearly 9 years to fix it.

    Is it fixed ..????

    It opened up under National and has stopped growing under Labour. I’d like to see it closed, but it takes a lot longer to build a house than it does to burn one down.

  27. Mickey – I still don’t understand what you are trying to say. Have you made a post today that is more than lies and innuendo?

    Although I have to say that you are slipping a bit as the resident attack dog.

    http://www.viewimages.com/Search.aspx?mid=697941

    Anyway, time to throw some snarlers on the barbie. And I can assure everyone that Mickey won’t be seeing me today.

  28. Oh I wouldn’t say that with such certainty if I were you, Francis.

  29. Phil 29

    Steve, that’s not what I’m saying at all. I deliberately left the two posts separate so that people didn’t bring the two (separate) issues together. I thought that was fairly obvious.

    For minimum wages, I never said “tied” to anything (yet another case of those on the left confusing correlation and cause-and-effect, but I digress)
    I was pointing out that the legal rise in minimum wage has predominantly followed on from existing economic conditions already having done the work of pushing overall wages up. Whether you choose to call this an ideological or economic argument is largely irrelevant.

  30. Tim 30

    “Additionally, it could also be argued that legislating the minimum wage in such cases has done nothing what-so-ever for workers, as their wages were already on the increase anyway”. I don’t agree Phil.

    Even if wages grow under favourable economic conditions this does not automatically mean an increased wage for those at the bottom. For example, for the hundreds of thousands of workers who work within $1 of the minimum wage the recent minimum wage increases have been the biggest pay increases they’ve seen in 20-odd years (cleaning industry, hotel industry etc.).

    Even in the past 5 or so years, when wage levels were rising in NZ in general, the wages for people on close to the minimum wage were not, except when the minimum wage was increased. If employers can profit from paying poverty wages they will.

    It’s irritating when right wingers say “Increases in the minimum wage will lead to unemployment!” but at the same time they are the most vocal opponents of the unemployment benefit.

    The minimum wage is still far too low. It should be set at 66% of the average wage. This is the OECD norm (as employers like to argue so much about OECD norms when talking abour probationary periods).

  31. iiq374 31

    Tim – It’s irritating when left wingers say “If employers can profit from paying poverty wages they will.”
    Especially when they fail to differentiate between large and SME employers.

    Yes, it is frequently a hallmark of large business that they pin down wages. It is also a hallmark that being employed within one of those types of industries is a poverty trap for those who ‘choose’ it. One of the issues you have in battling this with increases in minimum wage levels is a decrease in the employment within the SME industry, constraints of growth in SME’s, encouragement of increased employment in low skill areas, etc.

    All of which vastly benefit the Labour party and the “ruling elite” but do nothing to actually assist the eradication of a lower class.

  32. Tim 32

    Well, I guess the difference is that the left-winger’s statement is true, the right-winger’s statement is not.

    While SMEs make up 96% of businesses, they only employ about 30% of employees, and the majority of SMEs do not employ anyone. I don’t see why there should be one law for SMEs and one law for any other employer.

    There is no evidence to show that minimum wage increases and increased workers’ protection in recent years have led to decreases in employment in SMEs or stifled SME growth.

    Nobody ‘chooses’ to be paid the minimum wage, you’re always going to have someone who needs to do those jobs and there is no justice in implying they deserve the poor wage they are being paid.

    I don’t see how minimum wage increases benefit the “ruling elite” (whoever they may be) or the Labour Party.

  33. iiq374 33

    Well, I guess the difference is that the left-winger’s statement is true, the right-winger’s statement is not. Ah, except you are showing the true difference between left and right; right debating a point, left going “la, la, la” ;-p

    While SMEs make up 96% of businesses, they only employ about 30% of employees, and the majority of SMEs do not employ anyone. I don’t see why there should be one law for SMEs and one law for any other employer. Thanks for providing my proof for me.

    I don’t see why there should be one law for SMEs and one law for any other employer. I don’t see why there should either – however at least I’m recognizing that both exist before creating a slap down to both.

    There is no evidence to show that minimum wage increases and increased workers’ protection in recent years have led to decreases in employment in SMEs or stifled SME growth. Is there any showing it hasn’t?? The only research I have seen on minimum wages is that in a less than full employment scenario it impacts most heavily on the most vulnerable. Although I can’t quote from my own business as the lowest paid worker gets > $60,000 p.a. I can quote from my wifes where the impact wouldn’t show in reduced employment – because students are already classified as fully employed…

    Nobody ‘chooses’ to be paid the minimum wage Jeez – I thought it was the right’s job to be out of touch? How long since you went to school and watched people explicitly choosing to leave and take up minimum wage careers?

    there is no justice in implying they deserve the poor wage they are being paid. There is no justice in implying that just because they are working that they deserve more…

  34. Tim 34

    “right debating a point, left going “la, la, la’ ;-p” ???

    I don’t agree for good a reason. I said “If employers can profit from paying poverty wages they will”. Look at any fast food company and most international cleaning contractors in New Zealand and almost any international business trading in China (Nike, GAP etc.).

    You said minimum wage increases lead to decreases in employment. This is not correct. As I’ve stated before the minimum wage has increased significantly in the past few years while unemployment has dropped significantly, most markedly in unemployment amongst Maori, Pacific Islanders and youth, the so-called “vulnerable” workers. You can get these statistics from the DOL or Statistics NZ.

    People don’t choose to work for the minimum wage, think of someone in Otara who has to leave school to support the family because Mum and Dad get such poor wages. It’s a cycle, not a choice.

    I assume you own a SME. If you can afford to pay your lowest paid worker $60,000 then you can certainly afford to comply with employment laws and pay people the minimum wage. What’s your issue with current employment laws?

    Your last two responses make me think that you believe that people who “choose” to work in low paid jobs are not worthy of more. Sure, there are always going to be people who are lazy and stupid, some of them might work for the minimum wage but an equal if not greater number of them are wealthy.

  35. iiq374 35

    You said minimum wage increases lead to decreases in employment
    Actually I didn’t…

    Sure, there are always going to be people who are lazy and stupid
    Has nothing to do with being lazy nor stupid; it has to do with the relative benefit that they are able to offer. I have a couple of people who are lazy (admittedly none who are stupid) who are worth more to me than some of my hard workers – because the fact is they are more productive in the 20-30 hours actual work they put in than some who put in 40-50.

    I assume you own a SME. If you can afford to pay your lowest paid worker $60,000 then you can certainly afford to comply with employment laws and pay people the minimum wage. What’s your issue with current employment laws?
    Ah – beautiful example of left thinking; this law doesn’t affect your self interest so why should you care? Just because you seem to only care about something that directly affects you doesn’t stop others caring about the wider community and consequences.

    People don’t choose to work for the minimum wage, think of someone in Otara who has to leave school to support the family because Mum and Dad get such poor wages. It’s a cycle, not a choice.
    Sorry this is an argument around the level at which a safety net is required – not at which a minimum wage should be set. Also raising the minimum wage exacerbates this issue as it becomes more attractive to turf the hypothetical kid out to get $25K more in rather than $20K more in. It makes the argument of delayed gratification for higher education even harder to make.
    Unless of course you prefer a greater proportion of our young leaving school to “work at the meatworks”.

  36. Tim 36

    “Just because you seem to only care about something that directly affects you doesn’t stop others caring about the wider community and consequences.” The purpose of a business is to make profit. Businesses are not altruistic. Don’t try to pretend that you are running a business because you “care about the wider community”. You may do so in general terms, but that’s not the purpose of your business.

    If, as you say, you care about the community, then you should be concerned about low wages and the damage they do to society. There are a lot of social costs to low wages, and ultimately paying people such low wages is economically inefficient. Just increasing productivity or getting more people into work is not going to fix low wages in itself. Because a business is there to maximise profit, it is not going to increase its workers’ wages unless it has to, regardless of how much its productivity increases.

    “Also raising the minimum wage exacerbates this issue as it becomes more attractive to turf the hypothetical kid out to get $25K more in rather than $20K more in” – the whole point is that if Mum and Dad did not need to survive on poverty wages, their children wouldn’t have to work to help support the family. It’s not a question of “turfing out”, it’s a question of need. The minimum wage is a safety net, $12 an hour is not enought to raise a family.

  37. LabourMustBeLiquidated 37

    If Labour gave a damn about workers they would stop taxing the living daylights out of them. Never mind, Klark and her commie cronies will be off into the dustbins of history come election 08.

  38. PaulL 38

    Tim, you’re failing to discern between iiq374’s business interests, which are probably to make a profit, and his political interests, which occur in his non-working time. He cares politically that we not enact policies that reduce employment – even though those policies don’t impact his company directly. Why do you believe that his only interest here is whether or not his company is impacted – did he give up his rights as a NZ Citizen when he became a filthy capitalist?

  39. r0b 39

    G’day LMBL, welcome to The Standard. We look forward to further intelligent and constructive contributions from you in the future. Have a Nice Day.

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