Last week I wrote:
We’re seeing a new pattern in work relations emerging. The big employers, emboldened by having their party in power and using the recession as an excuse, are attacking workers’ pay and conditions.
Now, on the same day Talley and National-linked Open Country Cheese begins shutting out its workers and illegally using local cow cockies as strike-breakers, Bridgeman Concrete in Manukau has served its workers with an indefinite lockout notice unless they accept a wage freeze for the next two years.
There’s not even a pretext this time. The workers haven’t notified any industrial action of their own, so Bridgeman doesn’t even have the usual excuse of “ensuring certainty”. This is just a straight out attempt to bully the workers into taking a real-terms pay cut and break their will to organise collectively.
This new wave of employer militancy hasn’t come out of nowhere. A large part of it is opportunistic employers taking advantage of the recession to put the screws on their workers, but the Government has played its part too.
It was National, after all, that rammed through the fire at will law under urgency and sent a strong signal to employers that they don’t need to deal with their workers fairly.
And it’s National that’s been running the argument that workers should have to take a wage freeze. Bill English has already tried to freeze wages in the public sector, and as recently as last week John Key was talking down wages to striking firefighters and telling them they were lucky just to have a job. These comments were today picked up and repeated by the firefighters’ boss to attack the union.
It doesn’t take much imagination from there to see how the management at Brigeman Concrete might have got the idea they have a right to demand a wage freeze and to treat their workers unfairly.
All power to the workers and to their union, the NDU, on this one. There’s a picket currently underway at the Bridgeman Plant, 55 Crooks Road, East Tamaki. Go and offer some support if you can.