Members of the Pulp and Paper Workers Union voted this morning to accept a revised offer from their employer, Purex manufacturer Essity. In doing so, they have called an end to the Kawerau mill lockout, which will cease on Monday, September 19.
The 145 workers were locked out on August 9 after the company refused to offer a pay deal which would meet the rising cost of living. The union and employer were in ongoing negotiation and conducted several days of facilitated bargaining. Yesterday it was reported that the Employment Relations Authority had recommended pay increases for Essity’s workers in order to reach an agreement. Essity said in a statement it had accepted the recommendations. It has also withdrawn all legal action against the union for damages plus costs, which kicked off on August 31.
The new deal keeps workers’ incomes ahead of forecast inflation for the next three years, with a 5% increase and a $4,000 lump sum in 2022, a 4.5% increase and a $3,000 lump sum in 2023 and a 4% increase in 2024.
Union secretary Tane Phillips says workers are relieved to have secured a fair deal and see the end of the lockout.
“This has been the most brutal behaviour from a company I have seen in years. They just threw everything at our members.
“Essity locked out our members for nearly six weeks without pay to try to starve them out. The company blocked them from accessing their own retirement savings. And when that wasn’t enough they targeted individual workers with more than half a million dollars in legal threats.”
Phillips said the revised offer was “a big improvement” on the company’s original offer, and members were satisfied the union had achieved what it set out to do.
“We have decided to return to work on Monday. First we are going to have a celebration for all the union members and our supporters. We will then hold a karakia at the gates on Monday morning before heading back to work with our heads held high.”