Visy workers in New Zealand strike for pay raise, shorter hours

By Felicity Coggan
September 12, 2022

AUCKLAND New Zealand — Some 75 workers from two packaging companies here — Visy Board New Zealand and its subsidiary, Charta Packaging — picketed outside the Visy plant Aug. 24, while cars and trucks honked their horns in solidarity on this busy industrial road.

The workers, members of the E tu union, struck for 24 hours after the company refused their demand for a one-year contract with a 10% pay raise.

“At the end of the day their offer wasn’t enough,” union delegate Donnie Tuhi told the Militant. Official figures show inflation running at 7.3% in New Zealand. “Everybody is feeling the pinch at the moment.” He said this is the first strike in his 20 years at the plant.

Many workers put in over 60 hours over a six-day week, and are asking that overtime rates of time and a half kick in after 40 hours worked, rather than 50, as it is now.

“We are doing long hours to survive. I work around 64 hours to 70 hours a week,” delegate Manu Filimoekava said in a union press release. “We’ve got no time with family, no time with friends, no happy hour. It’s no life.”

Owned by one of Australia’s richest men, billionaire Anthony Pratt, and his two sisters, Visy is one of the world’s largest packaging and recycling companies. It has 120 operations in Australia, New Zealand and Thailand, employing 900 people in New Zealand alone.

“I saw from the company magazine that they made millions in profits last year. But they are crying to us that they are poor,” Tuhi said. “People have just had enough.”