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More pressure for Progressive

Published: 9:23AM Sunday September 03, 2006 Source: Newstalk ZB/One News

Supermarket giant Progressive Enterprises looks like it is about to come under even more pressure.

Talks with the union representing locked out distribution workers were stalled at the weekend, with no date in sight for talks to resume.

On top of that, around 4,500 Progressive supermarket workers will enter negotiations this Thursday and Friday.

And workers at Southmore meat works which supplies Progressive stores are likely to strike this week.

Meanwhile, consumers are starting to lose out as the industrial dispute continues.
The dispute is into its 11th day and it is showing on the shelves at local supermarkets.

Gaps on the shelves are now the norm at Foodtown, Woolworths and Countdown as Progressive Enterprises operates without distribution workers.

Progressive says it is confident it will be able to keep most shelves stocked, but most customers spoken to by One News had noticed gaps.

The locked out distribution workers are continuing their protests after court-ordered mediation between the parties broke down again on Saturday night.

"It is very clear to us that the intention of this company is not to bargain with these members but to break them," Laila Harre from the National Distribution Union says.

But Progressive spokesman Marty Hamnett says that is a very unfortunate statement.

"We're looking to do the right thing by our employees, we want to give them a reasonable, sensible increase in wages," he says.

Both sides say they are keen for a resolution. But there is none in sight and every day the dispute goes on is another day the striking workers don't get paid.

The 600 workers want a national collective agreement and a pay increase and says Progressive is acting illegally by employing another company to deliver goods while its workers are locked out.

Suppliers are now delivering most dry goods directly to stores, avoiding the shut-down distribution centres.

The company says it is willing to carry on talking with the union about pay under the existing arrangements, where each distribution centre has its own terms of employment. The union says it wants a national collective agreement.

The workers are vowing to fight on while their employer hopes it won't have another fight on its hands when 4,500 supermarket workers go into negotiations later in the week.