Anne Gibson

Property editor, NZ Herald

Unite Union says SkyCity Entertainment Group has agreed to a proposed $2.90/hour pay rise for the lowest-paid employees, from $20.10/hour to $23.

Joe Carolan, a Unite organiser, said today "hundreds" of staff at the business which operates in New Zealand and Australia would benefit from the base pay rate rise his union had negotiated.

Mike Treen, a union advocate, also welcomed the pay hike.

SkyCity confirmed discussions with E tū union, Unite union and its employees on individual employment agreements about the introduction of the SkyCity sustainable wage. 

"For our Auckland employees this means a minimum rate of $23, a 14.4 per cent (or $2.90) increase on the current SkyCity starting rate of $20.10," the company said.

"SkyCity modelled the cost of the sustainable wage on employee demographics, cost of living in each of the regions in which we operate including utilities and housing, transport, and household costs.

"SkyCity wants to continue to be a great place to work, we have a commitment to make a positive difference to the lives of our people and we want our staff to grow their careers with us. Offering a sustainable wage within our communities is a big part of that," the company said.

A full-time waged employee at SkyCity Auckland who now earns $20.10/hour, will receive an extra $116 per week or $6032/year before tax, effective December 1, 2021.

All SkyCity Auckland waged employees will receive at least a 3 per cent increase from December 1.

Carolan said the pay rise was significant.

"During the level 4 alert last year, we had people coming into work who were deemed essential workers and they were security guards, cleaners, the canteen workers needed to feed them and other essential service workers," Carolan said.

"They were on the absolute minimum wage of $20.10/hour. We have a highly feminised management so we said 'come on sisters'," Carolan said, referring to many women employees who would gain from the increased pay rate.

"This will benefit hundreds of workers," he said of the $120/week employees would enjoy.

The company employs around 2500 people but had laid off hundreds after the level 4 alert was announced last year, Carolan recalled today.

A further 100 were let go during a more recent restructuring, "so in the end it was around 1000 people", Carolan said of those let go by the NZX listed company in the last two years.

Yet profitability had risen and the company had received around $31m from the state in the Work & Income wage subsidy, he recalled.

SkyCity chief executive Rob Campbell has also called for more equitable pay and criticised the gap between extremely highly-paid bosses and those who work for businesses.

Treen said today of the $3/hour boost: "This is a good start to bargaining for the union collective agreement which is scheduled to start this Thursday.

"We think they were morally required to raise wages above the living wage as they had essential workers - cleaners, security, facilities - working right through the level 4 lockdown last year.

"We also think the correct response to a supposed labour shortage is to start by paying at least a living wage and it's really positive to see a major hospitality employer do the right thing here," Treen said.

But he said the union was disappointed that the company for the first time has started negotiations with their non-union staff before bargaining is concluded with the union.

"A $3/hour increase in the base rate is a good start. We will bank this offer as the starting point for bargaining and concentrate on rewards for skill, service, and compensation for anti-social hours the SkyCity staff have to work," Treen said today.

Last March, SkyCity said it was cutting wages by 20 per cent, offering redundancies and giving two weeks' notice that all annual leave must be taken.

Then-chief executive Graeme Stephens wrote to employees saying the company is "reducing waged staff to 80 per cent of their average wage, asking waged employees to voluntarily take annual leave to top up their wage to 100 per cent, accepting voluntary redundancies from waged employees".

The company will announce its annual result for the year to June 30, 2021, on August 25. Its shares are trading at around $3.12.

Submitted by

Mike Treen

Written 17/8/2021