CEO speaks out about Auckland strikes

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BNT’s Auckland distribution centre saw strike action yet again this week, making it the fifth time employees have walked out on the job since December last year. Here, HRM caught up with CEO Colin Daly to find out how things are progressing.

“We are in a process of mediation because the negotiations were not going according to plan for either party for various reasons,” says Daly, CEO of Hellaby Holdings which encompasses a number of subsidiaries including BNT.

“The union has made a significant list of wishes that it wants to see considered as part of the negotiation and we have been working through that list but we have been unable to reach agreement so that’s why we elected to go down the mediator route.”

Daly told HRM that the mediator has met with both BNT and FIRST Union on a single occasion and plans to meet again within the next two weeks in an attempt to facilitate an agreement.

In a press release published earlier this week, FIRST Union claimed BNT had been “dragging negotiations out for months” but Daly insists the company is eager to reach a resolution.

“In my opinion, we have entered into all of the discussions with the union in good faith and we would contest any of the negative comments around our attitude or behaviour,” he said.

“Whilst I don’t want to make any comment specifically about the other parties concerned, we have put our best endeavours behind getting a mutual outcome achieved.”

Daly also said he believed the mediator would make an assessment on how each party had conducted itself throughout the situation.

“I think with a lot of behaviours, in what can be quite emotional circumstances, it’s for each party to reflect on whether they’ve behaved well through the process, I believe that we have.”

Other allegations put forward by FIRST Union include BNT being among the lowest-paying employers in the sector with representatives calling on the company to offer employees a living wage.

“A large, profitable company like BNT should be paying a living wage,” said FIRST Union organiser Emir Hodzic. “With housing costs sky-rocketing workers have no choice but to look to their employer’s to provide a wage they can afford to live on.”

However, Daly says he believes BNT is paying market rates and claims the company has reached out to FIRST Union for clarification.

“We have asked the union to provide a benchmark which we again would look at in good faith but they are yet to produce the information to substantiate the claim that we are indeed one of the lower payers in the market,” he said.

When asked if he thought BNT was a good employer overall, Daly praised the BNT team and said he had heard both anecdotally and via survey evidence that staff were happy.

“We have a marvellous team that’s been working within BNT for decades now, it’s a wonderful business and we have conducted employee engagement surveys on a couple of occasions which indicate a high level of engagement,” he said.

“When I talk to people who work within BNT, they work here because it’s been a very good business to them, it’s been a very good business to work for, it’s been a loyal business to employees and it’s always had a very, very good feel about it,” he continued.

“We feel as though the business is lead well and lead with the employees’ interests at the heart of what we do. So yes, I do think we are a good employer.”

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