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A leap forward for Countdown

Long-term employee of Masterton Countdown Shelley Priestley. PHOTO/KAREN COLTMAN

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Masterton Countdown employee Shelley Priestley pocketed her pay rise this week after her new collective employment agreement came into force.

Priestley has worked for the company for 13 years and said this was the first time a noticeable pay increase had been achieved.

Countdown is now paying its lowest paying adult employees the living wage of $21.15 an hour, which is what Priestley is getting. The minimum wage is $18.90 an hour.

“My hat goes off to those Auckland workers that went on strike to kick this pay negotiation off,” she said.

“This time, it was enough to make a difference to my life weekly.

“This is a huge leap forward for us. It is the biggest one I have ever seen in the time I have worked for Countdown.”

Priestley was widowed when her husband, who served in the Bosnian War in 1995, died of leukaemia six years ago.

Her father died last year. She is now the sole income earner in her household and is working 29.5 hours a week. After tax, she is taking home an extra $37 a week.

Her job is working the night shift restocking shelves and getting the grocery store ready to open the next morning. Her shift starts at 9.30pm and finishes at 6.30am.

Masterton Countdown gave her time to be with her sick husband and care for her father when he was dying. Priestley thought she would not keep her job, but Countdown kept it for her and welcomed her back.

The Masterton store is managed by Adam Hall.

“It’s nice to see a company appreciating its workers and what we do for them,” Priestley said.

First Union negotiated the new living wage for about 7000 members.

Union secretary for Retail and Finance Tali Williams said workers with 12 months service would now be receiving a raise of almost $2 an hour.

“The pandemic has highlighted how reliant we are on our essential workers and the new pay scales take effect at a time when retaining and valuing our supermarket staff is more important than
ever,” Williams said.

Williams said Countdown union members now received the highest pay, on average, of all supermarket workers in New Zealand.

“In comparison, many un-unionised New Worlds and Pak’nSaves are still paying minimum wage for most entry-level retail assistant roles, and even in unionised stores, the fight for better pay and conditions always happens store by store rather than as a workforce,” she said.

“It’s possible in all retail brands and it’s possible in all industries.”

Beehive Premier Bacon staff held a protest outside the Carterton factory on September 1 to lobby for the living wage.

Negotiations with workers’ union E tu have concluded, with workers on the minimum wage gaining an extra 65 cents an hour.

E tu has more than 100 members at the meat factory and the majority will receive a pay rise.

It was not what was bargained for, but an E tu spokesperson said the union was pleased to have made progress with the overseas-owned company.

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