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New Zealand Casino Operator SkyCity Rings in the New Year with a Workers Strike


Posted on: January 4, 2022, 09:49h. 

Last updated on: January 4, 2022, 10:24h.

SkyCity Hamilton in New Zealand greeted 2022 with a departure of its employees. Workers at the casino launched a strike on December 31 in a bid to find pay equality.

SkyCity Hamilton Strike
Employees at SkyCity’s Hamilton casino strike over wages. Around 40 employees walked out just after midnight on January 1, 2022. (Image: Stuff)

SkyCity Hamilton employees made history this year. They became the first to go on strike anywhere in the world in 2022. Staff working food and beverage jobs at the casino walked out at 12:01 AM on New Year’s Day to protest pay inequality.

The issue stems from a lack of parity in what the employees make compared to those who work at SkyCity’s Auckland casino. The employees also want a living wage, a supplement to partially offset the challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

There were around 40 employees involved in the strike, according to media outlet Stuff. Most of these were in their 20s and were relatively new to the business. The protest was organized by the Unite union after it and SkyCity had spent almost a year trying to find common ground.

We are going to strike hard in hospitality this year. This is an industry that is well overdue,” said strike organizer Joe Carolan.

A SkyCity spokesperson commented on the strike, pointing out that the operator had already worked with Unite to settle disputes at the Auckland casino. It also came to an agreement with the E tū union for both the Auckland and Hamilton venues. E tū is a union that represents employees in aviation, manufacturing and food, communications, and other industries, according to its website.

SkyCity Claims Lack of Funds for Pay Raises

SkyCity has asserted that it can’t afford to pay its employees more, at least not until the COVID-19 pandemic goes away. For the 2020 fiscal year, it reported revenue of $1.125 billion (US$766 million). A year later, revenue fell to $952 million (US$648.12 million).

Carolan doesn’t believe the reduction in revenue is a valid reason for denying wage equity. He hints at employees no longer being willing to accept the status quo when it comes to pay. He adds that they are going to demand a larger piece of the action from their employees.

SkyCity hopes it can find a way to work with the union to avoid any further issues. It is also miffed that the strike had to be called. The operator’s spokesperson added in the company’s statement, “SkyCity is disappointed Unite chose to strike before going to mediation, as agreed to by both parties, at the start of the bargaining process. However, SkyCity is committed to finding a resolution and has sought a mediation session with Unite early in the new year.”

Auckland More Expensive than Hamilton

In many cases, salaries are based on the cost of living in the local economy. Compared to Auckland, Hamilton’s consumer prices are around 7.27% lower, according to cost comparison website Numbeo. Rent in Hamilton is 31.09% lower and local purchasing power is 55.11% higher.

These variations no longer carry the same weight as they once did. Employees in countries around the world are looking for a standard that is applied across the board. This appears to be the case in Hamilton, and SkyCity needs to be prepared for more friction this year.


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