Supermarket strike called off after 'significant' wage increase

  • 12/04/2018
Supermarket strike called off after 'significant' wage increase
Photo credit: Google Maps

UPDATE: The strike has been called off after the store agreed to significantly raise its wages.

FIRST Union spokesperson Stephen Parry says the company is now "taking the wellbeing of its workers seriously".

"This is a significant improvement," he says.

Alex Braae writing for The Spinoff

At a central Auckland organic supermarket, where the shelves are stocked with high end specialty foods, the workers are about to strike over low pay. And they're not the only supermarket where workers are getting fed up. 

Organic. Spray free. Superfood. Gluten free. Ethical. These are some of the words used to sell food at the Harvest by Huckleberry supermarket in the wealthy Auckland suburb of Grey Lynn. But the staff who work there say their wages show the last one - ethical - doesn't apply.

They're going on strike for an hour and a half this afternoon, in protest of pay that they say is far lower than they deserve. The average wages at the organic supermarket - which sells products like ten dollar tubes of toothpaste - are lower than those at the Countdown supermarket a few hundred metres down Richmond Road.

A staff member, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said they wanted the strike action to draw attention to the different ways a business can be ethical, or otherwise. They say the starting pay rate is 50 cents above the minimum wage ($16.50) and despite a long process of negotiation, there has never been a better offer than that 50c hourly raise.

"It's really not ethical at all. We're selling fair trade products, and there's a huge disconnect between us as staff and the product we're selling. We really care about organics and ethics, but we're not getting what we feel is a fair price." 

They say use of government assistance like the accommodation supplement is widespread, and due to inflation and cost of living increases in Auckland, life is getting more and more difficult. The worker says while annual pay reviews are part of their contracts, they are rarely awarded.

"It just doesn't really seem to happen. One produce worker has been here for seven years and never got a pay raise," they said.

"We're a specialty store. You're expected to have a lot of knowledge about health food items and different diets. We're not just a normal supermarket."

Huckleberry's CEO, Richard Lees, declined to comment when contacted.

The Spinoff