Rotorua Aquatic Centre staff dispute redundancies

By Mānia Clarke

Rotorua Aquatic Centre staff are disputing a decision by Rotorua Lakes Council to partner with an outside management group, which has resulted in redundancy notices issued to them.

Amalgamated Workers Union New Zealand (AWUNZ) say they are seeking legal advice as there was no consultation between the Council and staff beforehand.

With Christmas only weeks away it's now looking bleak for Shift Supervisor Duty Manager Syd Warena and his whānau.

“Gut-wrenching.  Really just gut-wrenching from the whole process,” he says.

“It's a bit sad that we're going to have to struggle through this...and Rotorua’s popular unemployment rate just adds to the problem.”

“It kills me to see him broken, to see what they've done,” says Syd’s wife, Donna.

“He's been near on 30 years- he wasn't going to be leaving this place.  He was going to be walking around with a walker and telling people off still.  That was the joke in the family,” she says.

Co-workers Alex Te Kowhai and his wife say the process and timing of the redundancies are gutting.

“Like everyone in Rotorua we've got a mortgage, a house, three young kids- eleven, six and five,” says Te Kowhai, who is also a Shift Supervisor Duty Manager.

“And to say that this news hit us hard would be pretty much an understatement.  Although you can apply for those positions, you lose a lot of your terms and conditions that come with it.  And what they're offering is minimum wage.”

Since October, the Council has reviewed all its services as required by law. 

The Council says outsourcing Auckland-based Community Leisure Management (CLM) to run the centre will mean a savings of $700,000 in year one and more in subsequent years.

“It's certainly our view that it's illegal,” says AWUNZ spokesperson, Rob Popata.

“There's a very easy clause in their collective agreement that says they must come to us and consult with us before any decision is made that affects jobs in that facility.”

Rotorua Lakes Council told Te Kāea that 28 lifeguards and swim tutors have been offered roles with CLM, at the same pay rates as they currently receive and with similar contract terms and conditions.

An online petition against the redundancies which began a few days ago has more than 4,000 signatures and a protest march is planned for the 14th December.

“Where was our voice? When were you going to talk to us?” asks Popata.

“Because actually if we were given a chance, we would put a proposal forward that would have actually delivered a much better outcome for the Council and for ratepayers.”

AWUNZ's lawyers are expected to meet with all staff members this evening to discuss their concerns and plan the next step forward.