Gardeners, grave diggers set to get living wage

InfraCore is set to pay a minimum of $26 an hour following days of strike action. Photos / NZM.E

Rotorua’s gardeners and grave diggers, who went on strike for five days, will soon receive a living wage.

Seventy-five employees of Rotorua Lakes Council-controlled organisation InfraCore swapped their tools for protest signs after eight months of failed negotiations.

They work in the parks, cemeteries and the provision of water services departments.

InfraCore chief executive Regan Fraser previously said their union’s expectations surpassed what the company could afford, but today said the new agreement would not strain its budget further.

Fraser said there were “constructive discussions” and the new agreement benefitted all parties.

This included how employees would receive, as a minimum, the equivalent of the living wage - $26 an hour.

“We can now focus on what we do best: providing quality services that contribute to making our district a safe, clean, and beautiful place to live, work, and play.”

Fraser said service delivery was “inevitably impacted” during the strike action, which resulted in a “modest backlog of work”.

“We appreciate everyone’s patience and are committed to quickly resuming our high service standards.”

Seventy-five InfraCore workers went on strike in a bid for better pay. Photo / Laura Smith.

Discussions began in June last year.

Before the strike action began on March 22 Fraser said it had been able to offer a 5 per cent pay increase but this was turned down.

Amalgamated Workers Union represented 59 of the striking workers. Bay of Plenty organiser Toni Smith previously said some had 10 years’ experience and were paid $23.65 an hour.

“Trainees at other local councils are better paid, and every other local body in the region pays a living wage of a minimum of $26 an hour.”

On the agreement, Smith said the union membership could be “so very proud of themselves”.

“None of this would have been possible without them collectively making the decision to stand strong together and have their voice heard over the five-day strike.”

Amalgamated Workers Union New Zealand Bay of Plenty organiser Toni Smith. Photo / Andrew Warner.

Smith also acknowledged community support that she said came from local contractors, emergency services, council workers and other unions’ delegates and organisers.

“Was so good to see and hear the support for such an important issue in addressing the high cost of living in our communities.”

First Union represented 16 workers. Organiser Phil Graham previously said the cost of living would create more poverty and hardship the living wage would ease.

Council’s infrastructure and environment group manager Stavros Michael said there were no major issues it could not address during the strike period and would continue to work with InfraCore to return to business-as-usual services.

LDR is local body journalism co-funded by RNZ and NZ On Air.

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