More than 30 call centre workers at Synovate in Auckland, NZ, were notified by text on Good Friday that they were locked out of the office, after turning down a pay increase of 20 cents per hour.
According to their union Unite, almost all the firm’s employees in New Zealand are paid the minimum wage of NZ$12.50; less than half the figures workers get in Australia where wages were increased by 3.5% in January.
The telephone interviewers were asking for a 50 cent per hour pay raise to take their wage to about 4% above the minimum wage level. They also wanted 12 hours' notice of roster changes, rather than finding out whether they are working that day when arriving at work.
The Synovate workers are part of the union’s ‘Calling for Change’ campaign to improve wages and conditions in Auckland call centres. In February, around 20 Synovate staff conducted a 24-hour hunger strike
in protest at what they describe as ‘poverty wages, inadequate breaks and no job security’.
This lock-out comes two weeks after Oceania Customer Interaction Service (OCIS) locked out
60 union members; a dispute that was settled
with workers receiving compensation for their lock-out as well as a NZ$1 an hour pay increase.
‘Synovate treats New Zealand workers as cheap labour and is trying to intimidate its employees to accept poverty wages. We will support these workers in their fight against this bully behaviour and the misuse of power by their employer,’ stated Matt McCarten, General Secretary of the Unite Union.
The union claims that some Synovate workers in New Zealand have been tasked with conducting phone research with financial organisations in Australia, and yet told to say they are calling from Perth. As a result, the National Union of Workers (NUW) in Australia is organising actions at Synovate client’s offices in Melbourne this week, and circulating support petitions amongst its members at Synovate call centres in Australia, some of whom have lost jobs because of outsourcing to New Zealand.
However, Synovate MD Ian Mills told local news sources that the union members had already been offered a 3% pay rise, and with added performance bonuses this would easily equal the 4% wanted by union negotiators.
Tomorrow, Unite says its members will be picketing outside the offices of a number of Synovate’s clients in Wellington.
Web sites: www.synovate.com