16 Jan 2019

Sistema workers vote to accept pay offer

3:25 pm on 16 January 2019

Workers at plastics firm Sistema have voted to accept a new offer after a year-long dispute over pay.

Pay talks with Sistema have stalled and workers are frustrated.

Sistema workers at a meeting last year (file photo). Photo: RNZ / Indira Stewart

The deal will lift wages by about 16 percent for all members by April 2020.

Union E tū said Sistema members voted overwhelmingly to accept the offer in meetings this week.

Workers at the giant plastics firm went on strike last year, citing low pay and long working hours.

The ratification of the new collective agreement follows more than a year of talks, mediation and industrial action by the staff.

The deal includes provisions for workers to always be paid a margin above the minimum wage.

Sistema has also agreed to regular meetings between union delegates and management.

The union said the deal was a well-deserved outcome for staff.

"The agreement is a big step forward and will see us working in a much better workplace than before," said E tū delegate and Sistema worker, Maria Latu.

"The dispute has brought union members together, and we have learned that we can rely on each other, and when we do that, we are strong."

E tū advocate Mat Danaher said the members refused to settle until they believed the deal was as good as they could get.

"These are low-paid workers, who work extremely long hours," he said. "They've been prepared to walk off the job numerous times to get what they want at considerable personal cost. Through it all they've stood strong, and this is a well-deserved win."

Mr Danaher said he and members wanted to thank the wider community in New Zealand and overseas who supported the campaign.

Mr Danaher said while workers had not been able to cut back on their hours, the pay increases were a step in the right direction.

"It's been really inspirational working with the Sistema workers.

"They are very low paid workers, mostly migrants, mostly people who had suffered in silence for years who decided they had enough and were able to stand together and win real improvements for their workplace."

Sistema chief executive Drew Muirhead said the company was pleased to reach an agreement with the union.

"As we have said previously, the interests of our employees have always been, and will remain, our highest priority."

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