SkyCity strike: Workers pit outside Auckland casino over living wage bid

Workers demonstrate outside SkyCity in Auckland’s CBD. Photo / Tom Dillane

SkyCity Auckland casino workers walked off the job tonight in a fight for better pay.

About 50-60 workers gathered outside Auckland City Casino on Victoria Street with signs and flags.

A Unite Union truck had a loudspeaker to support the workers as the Saturday night crowd strolled to and from the casino.

Workers want to be paid a living wage, but instead 90% of staff were offered a 4-6% pay rise, which was well below inflation, said Mike Treen, an advocate for Unite Union.

“[It’s] actually a pay cut.”

The strike began at 6 p.m., with a picket line outside SkyCity’s Auckland Casino, and ended at 8:30 p.m.

Workers protesting outside SkyCity in Auckland's CBD want to be paid a living wage.  Photo / Tom Dillane
Workers protesting outside SkyCity in Auckland’s CBD want to be paid living wage. Photo / Tom Dillane

As part of the Living Wage Movement Aotearoa, to become a Living Wage, accredited employers must pay all workers and contractors a Living Wage – with no change in terms of employment or working hours – and ensure that employees have access to a union.

The hourly living wage rate for 2022/23 is $23.65 and takes effect September 1. The minimum wage for people over the age of 16 in New Zealand is $21.20.

SkyCity’s failure on the living wage was a “shame,” Treen said.

“This hotel employer is the only major employer in the industry to refuse to pay a living wage.

“It is also shameful that on the 25th anniversary of the company, employees who started on day one are being paid the same hourly rate as those who have just joined the company for the same work.

“There is almost no reward for service.”

Unite Union estimated that 50 workers quit their jobs at the casino.

“We fired our shot and if we don’t get a response we’ll have to fire more shots,” Treen said.

SkyCity Entertainment Group announced this week a loss of $33.6 million for 2022, thanks to last year’s long lockdown.

Unite Union defender Mike Treen said SkyCity could do better because of its workers.  File Photo/Michael Craig
Unite Union defender Mike Treen said SkyCity could do better because of its workers. File Photo/Michael Craig

SkyCity workers go on strike for better pay.  Photo/Getty Images
SkyCity workers go on strike for better pay. Photo/Getty Images

Its operations in Auckland were shut for 107 days during the lockdown triggered by the Delta outbreak.

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No dividend was announced when the company’s results were published on the NZX on Thursday, but hopes were expressed that payments to shareholders could resume next year.

But Treen said the latest results were no reason for the workers to be absent.

“The company may have lost a few million dollars last year, but it has a virtual license to print money and has rewarded its shareholders with billions of dollars over the past decades.

“It’s time workers got their fair share.”

SkyCity released a statement saying they were disappointed Unite had chosen to strike as they were in the midst of ongoing negotiations and were scheduled to meet with them this Thursday.

“We encourage them to resume negotiations for their members. We are focused on a positive outcome for all employees, which reflects the difficult economic conditions due to the continued impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, including the closure of SkyCity Auckland for over 100 days,” the statement read.

The company said it was unable to comment on specifics of the wage offer, but could confirm increases for non-union employees who made up 70% of the workforce.

Full-time staff under individual labor contracts would receive an additional $1,200 on average this year, with salary increases of between 4 and 13.4 percent, depending on the role, the statement said.

IEA personnel were also eligible for a one-year service rate which was an hourly rate equivalent to the September 2022 living wage ($23.65) after one year of service with SkyCity, according to the release.

“Department recognition rates have also been increased (in some cases doubled) to recognize and reward employees who have been with the company for five years or more.”

Michael A. Bynum