Tip Top staff pay strike expected to affect bread supply

Tip Top Bakery workers are striking over fair pay.
Tip Top Bakery workers are striking over fair pay. Photo credit: Facebook/Tip Top Bakery NZ.

More than 70 disgruntled Tip Top staff are striking outside of the company's factory in south Auckland as part of negotiations for a pay rise and overtime rates, impacting bakery production.

The strike began at 6:30pm on Saturday and will finish at 6:29pm on Monday, FIRST Union - which represents the striking workers - said.

Mark Bosomworth, general manager of the baking division of George Weston Foods - which owns the Tip Top bakery brand - said as a result of the strike, production of buns, rolls, crumpets and gluten-free products is expected to be cut in half over the next two days, affecting supply in the North Island. 

"The strike action will reduce the company's production in Otahuhu and Wiri by roughly 50 percent, as more than 70 workers elect to strike.

"Shoppers living in the region defined as Kapiti Coast to Wairarapa, and north to Kaitaia will see this impact reach supermarket shelves on Monday and Tuesday.

"Through their Christchurch operation, [the company] is able to continue [its] supply of the majority of bakery products to Wellington and the South Island, so the impact [in those regions] will be minimal," Bosomworth added. 

FIRST Union spokesperson Anita Rosentreter said workers are striking due to the company's ongoing refusal to offer a "fair pay rise" and a "premium on overtime and night work."

"The deal proposed by Tip Top would see the minimum wage overtake the bottom rate in the agreement. 

"George Weston Foods is using their employees' low pay against them: they know our members have to work 50 or more hours a week to make ends meet. 

"If they paid them more, they would be able to spend less time at work and more time at home with their families."

Bosomworth said 14 of the union's 17 claims had been successfully resolved and that staff are treated fairly, and he was disappointed by the strike.

"We are concerned that FIRST Union is talking about the details of the negotiation and making inaccurate and misleading claims, whilst we have [and will continue to] negotiate in good faith.

"We pay competitive rates, we provide good training and we provide a safe, modern work environment for our staff," Bosomworth added.

George Weston Foods is owned by Associated British Foods and manufactures well-known house-hold brands including Tip Top, Ploughmans, and Bürgen. Other bakery products manufactured by the company include Bürgen gluten-free, Golden crumpets, pikelets, bagels and muffins, Bazaar breads and the Speedibake range.

People on the hunt for gluten-free bread are unlikely to be significantly affected.

"Our Bürgen gluten-free Sunflower and Chia has been less impacted and we are doing our best to get back into full supply of the range," Bosomworth confirmed.

Tip Top bakery staff striking on Monday are expected to resume work after strike action finishes at 6:29pm. Non-union staff will be redeployed to other roles within the bakery.