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Workers locked out – bosses locked in

Written By: - Date published: 10:26 am, April 14th, 2009 - 31 comments
Categories: workers' rights - Tags:

Forwarded to us from Indymedia:
Call centre workers at Synovate in South Auckland were today locked out by their employer. The workers had been negotiating for secure hours and a pay rise of a dollar when they received word by text last night that they would not be allowed to come back to work.

Upon arriving at the call center this morning union members found the front door padlocked shut by the company and a notice telling their non union workers to sneak in by the back door. In response to this attempt to use scab labour Union officials and members added their own locks to the front door and used cars and locks to block all other entrances to the building. This effectively locked the bosses inside for two hours until the union allowed one car to be moved to allow delegates to enter the building to continue the negotiations.


Unite Union Secretary Matt McCarten told assembled workers that he had dressed in a warm coat and had a razor in his pocket so he could shave before court if he was arrested. Most of the workers seemed positive and genuinely angry at their working conditions particularly that their shifts can be cancelled with no notice. Several however talked about how they could not afford to miss work – this is what the company is undoubtedly relying on to break the unions strength on this site.

Their has been a picket outside Synovate all day and members of the public are urged to come out to the site: 26 Aviemore Drive, Highland Park, East Auckland. At this stage the lockout is indefinet, more details will be posted here as they come to hand.

Follow the struggle online at twitter.com/uniteunion

31 comments on “Workers locked out – bosses locked in ”

  1. TightyRighty 1

    how come this article doesn’t mention the two carloads of unite workers yelling insult through megaphones at the chief executives house at 6.30 this morning?

    • Tane 1.1

      You’ll have to ask Indymedia. Personally I don’t think picketing his house is a particularly constructive activity, you only need to see the Herald’s coverage to see the PR damage you do yourself by using tactics like that.

      Still, you won’t find any sympathy from me for a company that locks out minimum wage workers. All power to them.

      • TightyRighty 1.1.1

        driving past yelling insults is hardly picketing is it Tane? intimidation might be a better word, no matter where your sympathies lie

        • Tane

          Do you seriously want to haggle over the meaning of the word ‘picket’?

          Or are you just running interference for a multinational corporation that’s locked out a bunch of minimum wage workers?

          • TightyRighty

            im sure if someone went round calling the workers slackers and lazy fucks, and telling them how grateful they should be to have a job, let alone be offered a pay rise, at six thirty in the morning, at their homes, you’d be a bit cheesed off too if a blog supported the employers rights to lock staff out without mentioning that slightly important bit of information.

            [Tane: As I explained, this is a rerun of an Indymedia piece. If you have an issue with editorial bias then take it up with Indymedia. Or you can just have a cry here in our comments section. Your choice.]

          • mickysavage

            Nothing like a bit of diversion to try and take people away from the main story. I bet a couple of the people in the car were communists and one of the cars was a Lada …

    • Ag 1.2

      They were? Good on them.

  2. Matt 2

    Good on Unite, the members at Synovate, and all the supporters that came out today to Queen Street.


  3. Isn’t unlawful detention a criminal offence?

  4. Matt 4

    Also, there is a fundraiser this Thursday to help out the locked out workers. Come out to show your solidarity, and stick around for the single best union movie ever made.

  5. If anyone wants to contribute to the strike fund the account details are on Unite’s website at http://www.unite.org.nz/.

  6. TightyRighty 6

    Ok then Tane, how about this one. If these poor workers, who are all members of unite, are all paid so shabbily, how come unite only takes action now? where these workers highly paid in previous years?

    • Tane 6.1

      They may have just joined the union. Or maybe this is the first year they’ve got themselves sufficiently organised onsite. Or maybe the have in the past and this is the first time the company’s decided to lock them out.

      Why does it matter? Or is this just more misdirection?

    • Perhaps they have had enough. Perhaps they know that this government is going to undermine every single thing that the last government did to support the poorly paid. Perhaps they missed out on the recent tax cuts and are p*&d off that Key and co got a monstrous rise while they got the shaft.

      Matt McCarten is the Unite Leader. It has been many years since he was a Labour member.

    • Pascal's bookie 6.3

      Ok then Tane, how about this one.

      He’s like Maxwell fncking Smart… “Well would you believe that Unite is a deep cover front group for a fringe Islamist movement aimed at the destruction of all that is good and holy, and the promotion of hot gay mansex?”

      • TightyRighty 6.3.1

        If thats what they really stood for and were proud of it, i’d say good on them. but it’s not.

        • darryl

          If Unite could get the Islamists to promote hot gay mansex then we probably wouldn’t have so much bother in the world. You should give it a crack.

  7. Bill 7

    Taking your grievance to the boss’s front door isn’t an altogether bad idea. Just got to be mindful how you execute such a ploy.

    Megaphones blaring around the neighbourhood isn’t likely to win you many friends. A discreet and carefully worded leaflet drop around the neighbours, while not necessarily winning support should lead to a bit of social embarrassment.

    Nothing wrong in blowing a ‘Mr Nice Guy’ façade where the neighbours are concerned is there?

  8. Bill 8

    Maybe the boiling frog analogy breaks down from time to time, TR?

    edit. Buggered up the reply function. This was obviously meant as a response to TRs comment up the thread a bit.

  9. Looks like the fundraiser and Matewan screening on Thursday could turn into a victory rally, if what we’re hearing tonight is true! Updates on http://www.socialistaotearoa.org

  10. marco 12

    This is a tough one, whilst I deplore a company that doesn’t treat and remunerate its staff properly, however, I can understand that the call centre industry is at the mercy of cheap labour.
    Most large companies have call centres based in India or the Phillipines who can operate at the fraction of the cost of a New Zealand based company.
    To remain competitive and to save jobs this company has to balance whats fair with whats good for business.
    If this was and industry where New Zealand had an advantage, such as agriculture then I would be supporting the protesters. But this is an industry that is extremely competitive with perhaps millions of potential employees and thousands of companies compeating for contracts.

    It does also show how globalisation has affected capitalism. The advent of cheap labour and the advancement of technology such as telecommunications has changed the face of business. Its extremely tough for western countries that value workers to compete. The Asian labour market is vast, western unemployment might be here to stay for a while yet.

  11. The Baron 13

    Sigh, I do feel for these people. I worked in a call centre for a bit, and shit – it sucks. I worked for minimum wage then too – well, actually below it, there was some shonky sales related target that was impossible to meet… it all sucked badly.

    I hated that job so much that it encouraged me to work harder at uni and get a better job once I had completed by degree. The same choice that is available to all of these people.

    I fail to see how this petty strike action will do anything constructive in this situation. if successful, the business will end up being bullied into paying more than the market rate for these people’s services, and will end up being anti-competitive – thus losing work, and all these people losing jobs.

    See, striking doesn’t result in long term benefits to the individuals, the business, or the economy – lose-lose-lose. Retraining, and taking personal responsibility for raising your skills and your worth to an employer makes everyone a winner.

    Cue all of the ideologically driven people who will tell me I am wrong without engaging with any of the substance of this comment…

    • Felix 13.1

      Do you appreciate that your solution is an individual one and that someone else is now doing the same job?

      Are you proposing that everyone retrain and get better paying jobs?

  12. Matt 14

    Lock out lifted late last night, settlement reached. Good on the members!

    Oh, and “The Baron”, your statement about striking being a lose-lose-lose situation–what planet are you on?!? Besides, this was a lockout. It’s a very different thing.

    • The Baron 14.1

      Once again, I don’t mind insinuations that I am stupid, but I would prefer some evidence to back them up. Wanna back up what planet your on with an argument rather than an assertation.

      Oh no, look out – more ideological crap without substance. Thought so.

      Point taken on the lock-out versus strike though – they are quite different, yes.

      • Matt 14.1.1

        Come to the (formerly a fundraiser) screening tomorrow, and I’ll be more than happy to discuss things at length in person. I can’t be bothered to stoop to argumentum ad hominem on a blog today though, too many more important things to do.


  13. John Edmundson 15

    Hang on a minute though Baron. In your rush to prejudge everyone else as incapable of “engaging with any of the substance”, you seem not to have noticed that your two posts on the subject have been entirely devoid of any substantive evidence, only your own personal anecdote, and a dose of preemptive vitriol.

    If your argument is correct, that “the same choice [a degree and a well paid job] is available to all”, please explain – using evidence of course – how all the current jobs that are done on low wages with no requirement for degree level education will be done after everyone follows your exemplary path to success. Surely you don’t believe they will all be performed by young people on their way to a degree and prosperity, like some sort of coming of age ritual.

    You, being as well educated as you are, should appreciate that society just doesn’t work like that. There are some jobs that simply have to be done despite their menial nature, despite, in many cases being vastly more socially important than some degree level jobs. Your individual solution simply doesn’t work for everyone.

    Furthermore, as the person making a bold claim to having discovered the solution to the problem of low paid and unpleasant work, I think it behoves *you* to present some evidence to support *your* claim. How about citing a country where a high rate of university graduation has done away with the existence of low wage work. That would be some evidence to warrant a discussion.

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