Unite Union

New Zealand: SkyCity Auckland casino workers go on strike demanding pay rises

SkyCity Auckland casino.
Reading time 1:45 min

SkyCity Auckland casino workers went on strike Saturday night, demanding better pay. About 50 to 60 workers congregated outside the Auckland city casino on Victoria Street, as they fought to see their salaries congruently meet inflation. 

90% of staff have been offered a pay rise of between 4 and 6%, which is well below inflation, according to Unite Union advocate Mike Treen. Under the Living Wage Movement Aotearoa, to become living wage accredited employers must pay all workers and contractors a living wage, with no changes to employment conditions or working hours. 

The living wage hourly rate for 2022/23 is NZD 23.65 ($14.54), and comes into effect on September 1. The minimum wage for those aged over 16 in New Zealand is NZD 21.20 ($13).  SkyCity’s failure on the living wage was “a disgrace," Treen said according to the New Zealand Herald. 

“This hotel employer is the only major one in the industry refusing to pay a living wage. It is also disgraceful that on the company’s 25th anniversary, staff who started on day one are paid the same hourly rate as those just starting at the company for the same job," he stated, and pointed out that there are “almost zero” rewards for service. 

SkyCity Entertainment Group reported this week a NZD 33.6 million ($20.6 million) loss for 2022 due to last year’s lockdown. Its Auckland operations were closed for 107 days. No dividend was announced when the company’s results were posted Thursday. 

Treen, however, said the latest results were not the reason for workers to miss out. “The company may have lost a few million dollars last year, but they have a virtual license to print money and have rewarded shareholders with several billion dollars over the last few decades," he said.

The company released a statement saying they were “disappointed” Unite had chosen to strike, as they were in the middle of ongoing negotiations and were reportedly scheduled to meet this Thursday

"We would encourage them to return to negotiations for their members. We are focused on a positive outcome for all employees, which reflects the challenging economic conditions due to the ongoing impact of the Covid-19 pandemic including the closure of SkyCity Auckland for over 100 days," the statement said.

Even though the company claimed to be unable to comment on the details of the wage offer, they could confirm increases for non-union employees who made up 70% of the workforce. 

Fulltime staff on Individual Employment Agreements would, on average, receive an extra NZD 1,200 ($738) this year, with wage increases ranging between 4 and 13.4%, depending on the role, the statement said.

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