Labour history was made when New Zealand had its first shopping mall workers strike on May 25. Workers in JB Hi-Fi in Albany, organised by the militant Unite union, went on strike for better pay and against a culture of bullying and intimidation against union members.
Workers at JB Hi-Fi haven't had a pay rise in 3 years, and now earn only 75c more than the new minimum wage. JB Hi-Fi is making record profits - up 29% this year to an estimated NZ$140 million.
CEO Richard Euchtritz has dismissed the workers' pay claim of a 50 cents per hour raise as "absurd" at the same time he has taken a NZ$1 million bonus, bringing his net pay to $4 million. The NZ workers pay claim amounts to just under $200,000 per year to the company.
"Our manager told me that I would never get a pay rise if I stayed with the [union]. There was a lot of pressure put on me to resign. Now they've cut down on the areas I used to sell on in our store. It's unfair- I'm rejoining the union and striking to stand up for my rights," explained Unite member Jack Lucas.
"This is the first time that NZ workers have put up a picket line inside a mall," Unite Campaigns Officer Joe Carolan told Green Left Weekly.
"Mall workers have the right to join a union and a right to take strike action. We believe that under the Employment Relations Act they also have the right to picket their place of work.
"Today these young, low paid workers will make history, as they take on a powerful and wealthy Australian multinational. Our union collected over 200,000 signatures in support of a living wage - now our members are taking the action necessary to force this corporation to share its profits."