RSE workers leave union after 4 days

Union membership is low, so too is signing up people who don’t understand what they’re doing:

Attempts to sign up migrant vineyard workers in Marlborough to a union have hit a snag, with more than 100 workers joining then abruptly cancelling their membership.

The workers, in the region on the Recognised Seasonal Employer scheme, signed up to the Central Amalgamated Workers Union following a meeting last Thursday.

Union co-ordinator Steve McManus said the 118 workers – a figure disputed by the company involved, who claimed it was 111 – cancelled their membership just four days later.

McManus alleged the workers were pressured to leave the union, however the head of vineyard contracting company Hortus, Aaron Jay, has rubbished the claim.

Many thought they were signing up for insurance, and once they found out what the union was, how much it would cost and what it offered they became upset, Jay said.

The Hortus boss was told about the meeting, at the company’s accommodation facility Duncannon, on Friday by worker leaders concerned about what had taken place. . .

Jay said the workers had originally been happy to join, but once they understood exactly what was being offered they told him they felt ambushed, and upset.

“Unions definitely serve a purpose, I’ve got no problems with them as long as it’s done properly. A lot of the guys didn’t necessarily understand what they were signing up to,” he said.

“We pride ourselves on our morals, our values, who we are and what we do. I’m the sole owner and director of the business, so when they’re in New Zealand I’m responsible.

“We make sure they’re happy, and if that means becoming part of a union I’ve got no problems with that.” . . .

Jay is the RSE scheme representative for Marlborough, and his company, Hortus, has frequently been held up as an example of an employer following best practice guidelines.

The RSE scheme has just passed its 10th anniversary.

It’s been a success for employers who struggle to get staff during harvest and for the workers who earn good money to take back to their home countries.

There have been a few problems with a very few employers.

But this isn’t a case of a bad employer.

Nor of an anti-union employer.

This looks like a union taking advantage of people who didn’t understand what they were doing.

 

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