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Rain no deterrent for locked out staff

Published: 8:49PM Saturday September 09, 2006 Source: Newstalk ZB/One News

Despite the rain, hundreds turned out at a protest in Mangere, South Auckland on Saturday in support of supermarket workers locked out by their employer Progressive Enterprises.

It is now day 16 of the industrial dispute where distribution staff in Auckland, Palmerston North and Christchurch are fighting for national pay parity.

There was a lot of cheering and honking at the protest that began outside Progressive's distribution centre in Favona Road.

More than 200 workers turned out, and there is no sign of the dispute ending, with other unions even looking to wade into the fight.

The wet conditions put paid to a hikoi so workers joined in a car-koi to the Mangere town centre.

They were met there by members of the EPMU and Unite Unions, who are also supporting their cause.

The workers are adamant they will battle on until they reach a fair resolution with Progressive management.

National Distribution Union secretary, Laila Harre, says the workers are receiving a lot of support from the public.

She says there has been a groundswell from working people telling Australian bosses they do not treat Kiwis like this.

Harre says more than $90,000 has been raised to support the workers during the dispute.  Unions are also planning to expand industrial action against Progressive, even though it may be illegal.

Morale was boosted on Friday, after 37 unions pledged to help the 500 locked out staff. 

"We're going to make sure that we support these workers as long as it takes," CTU's Ross Wilson says.

The Maritime Union is threatening to stop unloading supermarket goods at the wharves.

Progressive runs the Woolworths, Foodtown and Countdown supermarkets.  The company says the Maritime Union's proposal is unlawful and irresponsible, and could hurt businesses that have nothing to do with the dispute.

But the unions do not appear to be backing down.

"We need to put pressure on this company in the way that it's putting pressure on these ordinary workers and their families," Wilson says.

The two sides are due to enter mediation next week.