By Josh O’Sullivan
On Friday unionised ANZ workers walked out on their jobs to protest the underhanded offers of the ANZ bosses during collective bargaining negotiations. After posting consecutive profit records that just last year amounted to $1.7 billion, CEO David Hisco gave himself a 11% pay rise, leaving his paycheck $4.7 million a year (an incredible $2,157 an hour), making him the highest paid CEO in New Zealand. His offer to the workers is 0-3% pay rises, and forced casualization. While the profits have broken every record, pay rates have stagnated even in many cases lost value due to inflation. In addition to this the destabilisation of contract work impacts on job security everywhere – it started in the fast food sector and hospitality and now it is spreading through to more historically secure work.
ANZ workers walked out on strike at the Pukekohe and Dominion Road branches of ANZ and then workers from these branches and the ANZ call centre in Penrose, joined first union members on the march up Queen St to the ANZ branch there. Outside they called a picket and underneath the inflated greedy pig that represented David Hisco – they proclaimed their dissatisfaction for the city to hear. With cries for a fair share, workers demonstrated their strength even in the face of intimidation from team leaders and managers who have threatened members who wanted to take union action.
This is an explicit example of inequality in action. The highest paid CEO in New Zealand whose company posted record profits won’t even share a minimal amount of that wealth with the workers who made all that profit for him. The stand that the ANZ workers have taken is all the more important in the light of the restrictions the government has recently implemented with the Employment Relations Amendments Act: attacks on workers’ ability to organise, unionise and the removal of guaranteed breaks. This appalling act was passed with little to no opposition from either the opposition parties or from concerted union action. Just after a loss for the left in this last election what is needed now is workers’ solidarity and the ANZ workers’ struggle encapsulates the issues facing the working class across New Zealand. Issues like casualization, the loss of breaks, intimidation of workers by managers, and little to no pay increases despite the cost of living increasing daily.
This comes in an environment where all of the banks have made record profits and have skirted government taxes – while simultaneously reducing workers’ rights and increasing the exploitation of the workers in their branches. We need concerted effort and solidarity amongst all workers to combat the rising wave of casualization across the working class, the ANZ workers battle is just one among many – but already the solidarity amongst workers is immense with UNITE union organisers coming out on march with the ANZ workers. Mike Treen, Director of UNITE, told protesting strikers that “We have fought the same battles as you in the fast food sector – casualization is spreading and zero hour contracts are next. We stand here in solidarity with you now and we hope that you will stand in solidarity with us when we come to the bargaining table for our workers.”
This picket was put succinctly into context by Cory Anderson a Youth Convener for the PSA, “The first thing that the government did after being re-elected was to make a bunch of changes to employment relations that put simply, are aimed at making it harder for us to press our claims and easier for the boss to say “no”. Slowly but surely, they are closing off the official channels so they weaken our power at the bargaining table. But the official channels aren’t the only channels – we can still build our power by organising in our workplaces. When we stand up for ourselves, we can win a better outcome. So on behalf of the PSA Youth Network – kia kaha: stay strong, stay steadfast!”
The ISO supports the struggle of all workers against their bosses. We heavily encourage all workers to organise in their workplaces. It is difficult to do but the cost of not fighting these battles makes life much more difficult than organising in our workplaces. These issues are not just ANZ workers’ alone; all of us who haven’t already been pushed into casualization will have to start facing this battle.
Photo credits: from the First Union Facebook page. Like First Union to find out more about this ongoing campaign, and to learn how you can show solidarity with ANZ workers.