Sistema head “disappointed” by sweat-shop allegation

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The chief operating officer of Kiwi plastics company Sistema has hit back at allegations that the firm is operating a “sweat-shop” – insisting the claims are entirely fabricated.

"We have a great relationship with our employees, many of whom have been with us for over 10 years, and in fact we have a waiting list of people who want to work here,” said Auckland-based COO Drew Muirhead.

The company – slammed by E tū as “New Zealand's very own sweatshop” – is currently in negotiations with the union but had now been accused of exploiting its migrant workers.

"You've got workers doing 60-hour weeks, five days per week, on minimum wage without any additional allowances, and if they don't like it then they're told to get another job, said E tū manufacturing coordinator Anita Rosentreter.

“The workers are exhausted all the time," she added. “They barely have any time to relax, they barely have any time to spend with their family.”

The union, which has been trying to negotiate a collective agreement since February, has also accused the company of discouraging union activity.

"This is a company that discourages its workers of being part of the union. It discourages workers from having a voice in the workplace. And when concerns have been raised in the past by workers, whether they're union members or not, the response has been: 'Don't like it? Get another job,’” said Rosentreter.

Unsurprisingly, Sistema has staunchly disputed the allegations and has, in turn, accused the union of using “bullying tactics.”

According to Sistema, only 26 of its 700 employees are currently in the union and 266 are on the minimum wage – 175 of those are reported to have been employed at the company for less than two years.

He also stressed that the company had “invested considerable resources” to upskill members of its workforce.

Muirhead added that the firm was "disappointed and frustrated at the completely false claims” and said he was discouraged by the union’s decision to go to the media in the midst of negotiations.

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