by Alastair Reith
On Saturday and Sunday workers at Pak ‘n’ Save Invercargill protested outside their workplace against low wages and workplace bullying.
To a chorus of supportive car horns and megaphone siren blasts, the workers led a noisy picket alongside trade unionists, socialist activists and supporters from throughout the community.
The issues at stake are simple. Some Pak ‘n’ Save staff have worked at the Invercargill store for nearly three decades but are still on or close to the minimum wage. Others have stories of harassment, bullying and intimidation by managers.
The store owner, Mr Bryan Dobson is a wealthy man with a flash house and a flash car. He takes expensive holidays out of town. All this is possible only because of the hard work put in by the checkout operators, shelf stackers, produce sorters and trolley wranglers who help fellow workers get the groceries they need.
These workers perform an essential service, and they should be paid and respected accordingly. Instead, Bryan Dobson is paying the bare minimum. It’s up workers in their union – FirstUnion – to organise and fight for their pay and conditions.
But Dobson is refusing to discuss wages with the union. It is hard to think how anyone can reasonably claim to be negotiating a contract in good faith if they won’t discuss pay rates!
Greedy bosses aside, it was a privilege to stand alongside workers who’ve not only had a gutsful but are standing up to do something about it. One woman was moved to tears seeing people rally to support her cause.
The Pak ‘n’ Save workers are blazing a trail for all of us; in a time when outbreaks of class struggle are as rare as they are desperately needed, these brave men and women are showing low paid workers everywhere the path forward. Their fight is our fight, and their victory will be one we can all share.
Ten members of the International Socialist Organisation travelled down from Dunedin to support the action. Not only was it a welcome opportunity to support fellow workers in a neighbouring town, but the trade unionists of the truly Deep South know how to throw together a mean BBQ.
Hopefully the noise we made over the weekend has got through Mr Dobson’s skull and impressed upon him the need to offer a meaningful payrise to his staff, because if he doesn’t we’ll be back again, and again, until he does.
If you’d like to help Mr Dobson understand this, feel free to explain matters to him with a friendly email: firstname.lastname@example.org