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New Zealand Union Campaigns in Support of Dismissed LSG Sky Chefs Worker

Posted to the IUF website 08-Mar-2005

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The IUF-affiliated Service & Food Workers Union (SFWU), which represents about 350 LSG Sky Chefs workers at Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch airports in New Zealand, has launched a campaign and is calling for support for the reinstatement of an unfairly dismissed union delegate.

A settlement has since been reached in this case. More details below.

The union member, an LSG Sky Chefs employee at Wellington Airport, was summarily dismissed on 22 February 2005 for alleged gross professional misconduct in connection with a near-accident - which was successfully avoided - on the tarmac.

The incident involved an aircraft which turned unexpectedly on the tarmac while the union member was driving a truck on the service road next to the tarmac. The member took steps to avoid the collision which he believed was imminent. The action taken caused no damage to people nor property.

In the aftermath, the member offered to assist LSG Sky Chefs in reviewing the incident with a view to developing a policy to deal with such situations should they arise again. The company, however, determined he had failed to observe safety practices as outlined in company policy and dismissed him on the spot. He was given no opportunity to respond to the allegations held against him.

SFWU filed grievances with the Employment Relations Authority, claiming unjustified dismissal and discrimination, and launched a campaign calling for the reinstatement of the dismissed SFWU member and urging that steps be taken to ensure workers' safety, including putting in place appropriate training to deal with similar situations.

The union, on behalf of the dismissed worker, and the employer agreed to try to resolve all issues through mediation. Following the second mediation meeting, on March 14, the parties issued a joint statement declaring that they had "amicably resolved all employment-related issues between them on a mutually acceptable basis".

Union member Ray Cutter has been very grateful for the support from people in New Zealand and from all around the world. The SFWU extends its thanks for all the solidarity and support received.


Workers win new CBA / Unions sign up new members

Workers organised by SFWU and EMPU (Engineers, Printers and Manufacturers Union, also an IUF affiliate) took industrial action in October 2004 when LSG Sky Chefs management refused to bargain seriously over demands for wage increases and improved overtime payment. Following a series of rolling strikes which took place at the three New Zealand airports on October 1, 3, 6 and 8, workers petitioned for a 24-hour strike. Management then finally agreed to mediation and a new 2-year agreement, which met most of the union members' demands, was ratified in November. As a result of their hard work and the overwhelming support of the membership, the unions were able to sign up new members at the three airports, making LSG Sky Chefs a strong union work site in New Zealand.

Solidarity within LSG Sky Chefs

Through the IUF, the New Zealand workers were aware that during their struggle, industrial action was also taking place at airports in Sweden, Spain and France. This made them feel "really part of LSG Sky Chefs workers international solidarity".

As in the case of the collective bargaining struggle in Sweden in September 2004, the New Zealand union negotiating committee faced an inflexible and unbending management which refused to bargain in good faith. It took 8 hours of strikes and the threat of another full day of strike action before the company was willing to go to mediation and seriously consider the union negotiating committee's proposals. The settlement, which was ratified by the vast majority of the membership, included a retroactive wage increase and overtime paid at time and a half after 2 hours (instead of 3). In addition, the lowest wages were increased by 7.7%.