Auckland, New Zealand, Oct 27, 2020 -- Call centre staff at Countdown went on strike on Tuesday, calling for a $2 an hour pay rise.
Their strike action would mean delays for Countdown customers calling customer care helplines, the supermarket chain said.
"We were advised by First Union this morning that some of our customer care team would undertake a partial strike today from 10am to 9pm this evening," said Kate Porter Countdown’s head of communications and community.
"This will impact all queries relating to our online shopping services."
"We’ll be managing this as best we can but unfortunately it may mean some delays for customers who have questions or changes to their online orders," Porter said.
"We’re very sorry for this and any frustration caused to our customers."
Robin Wilson-Whiting, First Union retail organiser for Countdown stores, said workers were angry at public comments made by management at the Australian-owned supermarket chain.
"It was deeply irritating and offensive to many of these overworked call centre staff to hear their managers publicly claim that the wages on offer represent ‘a fair and appropriate’ wage for the jobs they do even before the era of Covid-19," Wilson-Whiting said.
On Thursday last week, at least 50 staff at Countdown’s customer contact centre in Auckland began strike action claiming their pay was not in line with market rates for comparable roles.
Then, the union was calling for $2 an hour increases, and said the supermarket was offering an increase of just 60c to 80c, providing the contract was not renegotiated for three years.
"The feeling is that all of the company’s talk about how valued they are and how essential they are is just talk," Wilson-Whiting said.
"After hearing this kind of talk for so long since lockdown, workers have asked the company to live up to it and pay market rates for these customer care roles, which have different demands and expectations for staff."
She said Countdown’s contact centre staff were employed on a separate collective agreement to other supermarket workers, and many did not receive a current living wage.
"Workers say they know they have public support, they know they really are essential, and they know that Countdown can’t work without them," said Wilson-Whiting.
Porter said: "In the current environment our focus has been on doing everything we can to provide a fair and meaningful offer for our team, while also ensuring job security and keeping our team safe and well at work.
"We’ve proposed an increase for our customer care team which would put our pay rates ahead of the market for like-for-like customer care roles, and which we think is fair and appropriate for the current uncertain economic climate.
"We’re of course very disappointed that strike action has been taken, but we’ll continue to get around the table in good faith with the union and are hopeful of a good outcome for our team," Porter said.
Posted by Veronica Silva Cusi, news correspondent
Countdown is a New Zealand supermarket brand.
Published: Thursday, October 29, 2020
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