Strike to occur at Auckland Casino on Chinese New Year

Press Release – Unite Union

Staff at the SkyCity Casino in Auckland, New Zealand, will be striking on Chinese New Year against what they call an inadequate contract offer and to protest discrimination against Chinese workers. About a third of the staff at the Casino are Chinese. The …


Strike at Auckland Casino on Chinese New Year to protest contract offer and discrimination against Chinese staff

Staff at the SkyCity Casino in Auckland, New Zealand, will be striking on Chinese New Year against what they call an inadequate contract offer and to protest discrimination against Chinese workers.

About a third of the staff at the Casino are Chinese. The Casino targets high value Chinese players to come from around the world to play. They are expecting groups from Hong Kong, Singapore, Macau and mainland China to come and play this Chinese New Year.

But the union claims that Chinese staff are targets of discrimination because the company has introduced a policy that prevents them from being able to use their legal rights to access holiday leave for 17 days from February 2 this year. They imposed similar policies in the last two years.

Unite Union National Director Mike Treen who represents the workers in the Casino said that “the greatest impact of this policy is on the Chinese members who value the period of Chinese New Year to be with family and so on. To have the weeks before or after the actual day blocked from being used is discriminatory. While it is true that there is a blackout also for the Xmas-New Year period this is quite different from Chinese New Year. It includes 4 public holidays and combines two celebrations important in NZ. Chinese New Year is not a public holiday and denying Chinese staff access to any time off over a period of several weeks to be with their families is discriminatory in our view.”

“We think players who want a good time on Chinese New Year should avoid the Auckland Casino. We will be striking and picketing to express our anger and disgust at the way this company treats its staff.”


How the “Blackout” on Accessing Lieu Days Around Chinese New Year Discriminates Against Chinese Staff

Over the last three years SkyCity has denied all staff the right to use their legal right to use their lieu days to have time off for periods of up to two weeks. Of course the main impact of this policy is to prevent Chinese staff being able to celebrate this important time of the year to be with their families.

Since 2004 workers in New Zealand have been able to get an “alternative holiday” (also known as a “lieu day”) for working on a public holiday.

Because SkyCity staff often work a 24/7 shift pattern many staff are able to get 11 lieu days a year.

The law also gave workers the right to nominate any day as a lieu day – even if the employer disagrees. These are the only holidays workers have total control over. Annual leave, for example, has to be taken at a time the employer finds acceptable. Because of this the employer is able to establish “Blackout periods” for taking annual leave.

After the law change SkyCity routinely denied workers the right to take their lieu days on days the workers wanted. They would deny leave even if requested months in advance with the invariable excuse that they were “too busy”. Departments that were often short staffed were of course always “too busy”.

In the end a surveillance staff union member nominated to take New Year’s Eve as a lieu day at the end of 2007. And he insisted on his legal rights. This made the company panic and they feared his example would be followed by others. So they asked the union to help. We agreed only if the company made a firm commitment not to deny worker’s right to nominate lieu days in the future.

Although there have continued to be problems since then with managers refusing lieu day entitlements the situation did improve.

In the 2008 Collective Agreement we also agreed that it was reasonable to allow the company to block out the Xmas New Year period and Chinese New Year’s Day.

The Collective Agreement read:

17.4 The Employee’s alternative holiday must be taken by agreement with SKYCITY management. If no agreement can be reached the Employee must give 14 days’ notice and take into account SKYCITY’s view as to when it would be convenient to take the alternative holiday. It is a specific condition of this Agreement that SKYCITY may limit the number of alternative holidays available to be taken during the Christmas and New Year period (i.e. from 22 December to 3 January inclusive), Chinese New Year and on the occurrence of other exceptional events (as determined by SKYCITY). A fair and equitable process for allocation of the limited alternative holidays available during these periods shall be developed in consultation with the unions. If the alternative holiday is not taken within 12 months of the date on which the Employee became entitled to it, the Employee may request to cash it up.

In 2009 the company decided that “Chinese New Year” would be a period of over two week that also included Waitangi Weekend. For 2010 they decreed a period of 9 days from February 13th – 21st. This year they have again unilaterally decided on an extended period. The simply redefined “Chinese New Year” as “Chinese new Year Period”. And then decided what that “period” was to be.

Of course the greatest impact of this policy is on the Chinese members who value the period of Chinese New Year to be with family and so on. To have the weeks before and after the actual day blocked from being used is discriminatory. While it is true that there is a blackout also for the Xmas-New Year period this is quite different from Chinese New Year. It includes 4 public holidays and combines two celebrations important in NZ. Chinese New Year is not a public holiday and denying Chinese staff access to any time over a period of several weeks to be with their families is discriminatory in our view.

ENDS

Content Sourced from scoop.co.nz
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