Poverty Wages – NZ Workers’ Stage Hunger Strike to Protest

From: Unite

“Over twenty professional market researchers will begin a hunger strike at 4pm today that their union says will last for at least twenty-four hours.

Market researchers from the residential team at the east Auckland call centre of the global market research firm Synovate, which has an annual turnover of $720 million have taken the action to protest poverty wages, often as low as $12.50, inadequate breaks and no job security.

The Unite Union which represents the market researchers at Synovate are asking for pay rates that would see full timers get paid $17 an hour and part timers get paid $15 an hour. Current pay rates are as low as $12.50, significantly less than the $21.72 an hour that Synovate researchers earn in Australia as a result of their strong union won agreement. Other improvements the union is asking for include union members being paid for shifts cancelled at short notice, five minutes break for each hour worked and guaranteed hours for long serving staff.

“Worker’s should not be expected to be the eyes and ears of corporate capitalism while working on poverty wages with no job security in a call centre that often has it’s carpet infested by fleas,” said Unite Union organiser Omar Hamed.

“The company seems to want to keep delaying raising our wages. Management has been telling us constantly that we should be tightening our belts. So we decided to take them at their word,” said Synovate call centre worker and union delegate Maria Evaroa.

“A recent survey by Synovate found that internationally New Zealanders are among the least concerned about the global recession. Yet there is a strong sense in Synovate’s own call centre that the company is using the recession as an excuse not to pay living wages.

“Aegis Group which owns Synovate made a £94.4 million profit in 2007. It was call centre workers like us who created that profit yet in the good times we never saw our fair share.

“Negotiating for living wages and good working conditions in the midst of an economic crisis has taught us that multinational corporations will always try and make workers pay for the crises they create,” concluded Maria Evaroa.

Union members will be on hunger strike from 4pm on Wednesday the 25th of February until 4pm on Thursday the 26th of February. A community picket will be held at Synovate’s call centre in Aviemore Drive, Highland Park from 5pm to 5.30pm on Thursday the 26th.