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Progressive pay dispute resolved

Published: 8:50AM Thursday September 21, 2006 Source: Newstalk ZB

The dispute between Progressive Enterprises and its distribution workers has been resolved.

Some 500 workers have been demanding pay parity and a collective agreement for employees at the company's Auckland, Christchurch and Palmerston North sites.

The dispute began a month ago when a 48 hour strike turned into a lock out. Progressive, which owns the Woolworths, Foodtown and Countdown chains is unrepentant. It says the work done in each centre is different, so they should have different contracts.

The lock out took a heavy toll on the workers who had to go without over $2 million in wages.

Progressive's Managing Director Marty Hamnett says the National Distribution Union dropped its demands for a single collective agreement and an initial 30% pay increase. He says the three existing agreements for workers at the company's Auckland, Christchurch and Palmerston North distribution centres are still in place.

The deal allows for pay parity within two years and a pay rise, but is not a national collective agreement and the union can't promise the workers they won't have to bargain again in three years time.

But union spokeswoman Laila Harre is happy with the three-year deal. She says it is a phenomenal result and has been achieved with an unbelievable level of national unity.

But despite the 4.5% pay rise, Harre is angry at how the company has treated its workers.

She thinks the company realised by late last week, it wasn't going to be able to keep using bullying to keep its workers away from equal pay and equal work.

Workers will be back on the job on Friday.