SkyCity Auckland casino employees strike over wage demands

SkyCity Auckland casino news
Worker at SkyCity Entertainment’s flagship Auckland casino staged a preemptive strike on Saturday amid ongoing wage negotiations. (Photo: SkyCity Auckland)

SkyCity Auckland casino workers went on strike over the weekend, with more than 50 employees camping outside the Victoria Street venue to demand increased wages to enable them to cope with the nationwide inflation.

The New Zealand-based casino operator started facing issues after the COVID-19 pandemic and the subsequent lockdowns. Operations in Auckland were shut down for over 100 days during the period.

Around NZ$33.6 million (US$20.88m) was lost in the company’s last fiscal year, and SkyCity did not announce any dividends during the report. Despite this, the employees claimed that the casino operator was still mandated to increase their pay.

Mike Trent, a spokesperson for Unite Union, said, “The company may have lost a few million dollars last year, but they have a virtual licence to print money and have rewarded shareholders with several billion dollars over the last few decades.”

The strike was held on Saturday and only lasted a few hours. It was a preemptive action of the move the staff of SkyCity would make if the gaming venue was not to take heed and increase the minimum wage of the workers.

The workers were offered a raise in their salaries of between 4 and 6%; however, the amount is still well below the 7.3% needed to reach the country’s inflation rate. According to reports, living in Auckland costs more than living elsewhere in New Zealand. In order to live passably well, it is estimated that a family of four would need NZ$162,600 (US$99,316) in annual income before taxes.

READ: Hundreds of Atlantic City casino workers protest over wages

The Living Wage Movement Aotearoa has urged companies to provide improved wages to staff and contractors with no employment conditions or changes to operational hours. Worldwide, the movement raises complaints about businesses whose salaries are too low to provide the necessary benefits for their workers.

Due to the influence of the movement in New Zealand, from next month, the minimum hourly rate will be NZ$23.65 (US$14.44). The current hourly rate for people over 16 is NZ$21.20 (US$13). At the moment, the wages of the workers in SkyCity are not anywhere close to the living wage.

According to Treen, the SkyCity’s inability to provide sufficient wages for their employees was “disgraceful”, especially for an establishment with 25 years in operation.

The Unite Union advocate said, “This hotel employer is the only major one in the industry refusing to pay a living wage. It is also disgraceful that on the company’s 25th anniversary, staff who started on day one are paid the same hourly rate as those just starting at the company for the same job. There are almost zero rewards for service.”

In response, SkyCity said the union’s decision to go on strike was disappointing because negotiations on the matter were set to continue on Thursday.

The statement read, “We would encourage them to return to negotiations for their members. We are focused on a positive outcome for all employees, which reflects the challenging economic conditions due to the ongoing impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, including the closure of SkyCity Auckland for over 100 days.”

The statement revealed that the company intended to increase the wages of 70% of the casino workforce that were not part of the union. It added that full-time staff who had Individual Employment Agreements could have wage increases of between 4 and 13.4%. This would give the staff an average increase of NZ$1,200 (US$738) this year, depending on the worker’s role.

Besides the gaming venue in Auckland, another SkyCity property experienced a strike earlier this year. Workers at SkyCity Hamilton left their posts on January 1, 2022, to campaign for better wages.

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