The strike will trigger the first stoppage of New Zealand's rail system since 1994
KiwiRail workers have issued a strike notice to the state-owned rail enterprise to call for better pay as essential workers. The Rail and Maritime Transport Union announced two separate strike notices - with one held on December 16 by South Island union members and another on December 17 by North Island union members. But with the train control functions located in the North Island, the December 17 strike is also expected to paralyse operations even in the South.
"The strike action will affect all rail operations in New Zealand including the rail ferries and Auckland and Wellington Metro systems," the union said.
Wayne Butson, general secretary of the union, said that this would be the first full national stoppage of the rail system in New Zealand since 1994. According to the official, workers are calling on an eight per cent increase in general wage after they failed to get a pay hike in 2020.
Read more: KiwiRail facing $500,000 fine for unsafe working conditions
Workers should also reap the rewards for their hard work in moving tonnages during lockdown, added Butson, noting that the KiwiRail senior management received "huge bonuses" in the 2020/21 financial year.
"Rail workers are very aware of the importance of their work to New Zealand’s transport needs and have taken this action because there has not been an acceptable offer forthcoming from management," the general secretary added. According to Butson, the pay hike will help them "catch up" to the rapidly rising living costs over the past two years. An overwhelming majority of 94.41% voted yes to strike action, according to the union, with only five per cent voting against it.