Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Workers Fired Because of Union Membership

Today workers from the 5 star Ascott Metropolis hotel in central Auckland picketed their former workplace in response to an unfair an illegal dismissal. The workers had been employed in the hotels restaurant operated by an Australian contractor, but after the contract was given to the manager of the Atlantis restaurant the five Unite union members were fired and non union members were hired to replace them. The manager Peter Gibbs has a long history of screwing over his workers, taking several months of union fee’s from his workers pay and not giving them to the union as well as paying workers late and breaching their collective agreement. One of the workers Gaila had this to say “We’ve worker here for three years, we’ve worked split shifts, long hours and irregular weeks for this company and the hotel has taken our union fee’s taken our Christmas pay and lowered our hours from 40 hours per week to 15 hours per week so we are barely able to pay our rent” The workers had found out the week before Christmas that they were not to be paid on time that week as “the company could not afford it”. The workers are regularly paid late, not provided with a pay slip and are left wondering every Thursday whether their pay will go through on time. This has resulted in extra fees as workers not paid on time are unable to pay their bills.

Beth another worker said “The first time your contractors liquidated who did your split shifts? We worked from 5 – 12am and then came back to work 7 – 12pm at night” Peter Gibbs now claims he does not know the name of the new company he manages despite it being registered in his wife’s name.

Guests from the hotel came out to support the staff, many of whom they knew by name. The guests were shocked by the loss of the staff saying that “these are such fine people, the best workers” another was “extremely sorry” and got the contact details of the workers so he could keep in touch. The public support was also high with a local cafĂ© bringing coffee for everyone on the picket line and passing motorists and public tooting and indicating their support for the workers.
Resident who had come out to give the workers a hug

The Ascott is a 5 star hotel whose parent company has just reported a profit of over a hundred million dollars. Despite this it has actively refused to pass on union fee’s and has worked in tandem with Peter Gibbs to try and get rid of the union. Unite will be taking a court case against the hotel restaurant which has breached New Zealand law in several places including firing workers for being members of a union and not allowing them to continue their jobs when contractors change as is necessary under New Zealand law for those working in sectors such as catering where the workers are deemed “vulnerable”.

Unite is beginning a wider campaign for hotel workers on Saturday labeled “wake up hotels” and will continue to picket the Ascott Metropolis hotel until the five workers are given their jobs back. The workers are planning to stay outside the hotel indefinitely with talk of a protest camp. Details will be made available as to how the public can support these workers as they come to hand.


Anonymous said...

Does this mean that Unite is focussing on defending workers rights again?

John said...

Maybe, Unite has structural problems. The organisers are cool though in Ak