by Phil Duncan

Last Friday (December 1) all the staff at Rotorua Aquatics, which is owned by the local council, were presented with redundancy notices.

The Council wants to bring in an outside management company, and is preparing the ground for this with the redundancy notices. The Rotorua Lakes Council is so high-handed that it didn’t even bother with the usual employer pretence of “consultation”.

The mayor involved in this assault on workers’ rights is Steve Chadwick, a former four-term Labour MP
Not surprisingly, the mayor involved in this attack on workers’ rights is a former Labour MP, Steve Chadwick.

The Council’s over-riding motive is clear – penny-pinching at the expense of the Aquatic Centre workers and the local community who use the centre and whose children learn to swim there. The Council says outsourcing management will save $700,000 in the first year alone.

What this means is that the new management will hire workers who are less well-trained and who will work for less. Existing workers can reapply for thier jobs, but at the much-reduced rates of pay and worsened conditions.

Sid Warena, a lifeguard at the centre for 29 years, has described what is happening as “gut-wrenching”, especially given Rotorua’s unemployment rate. The official rate is 6.7%, notably higher than the national average; while the real rate of unemployment and under-employment is much higher.

Alex Te Kowhai, a shift superviser at the Aquatic Centre, notes, “Like everyone in Rotorua we’ve got a mortgage, a house, three young kids- eleven, six and five. . . 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.”

The workers and local community aren’t taking the Council’s high-handed austerity lying down. Their facebook page already has 800 likes and over 800 followers. They are holding a protest march next Thursday (December 14), coinciding with the next Council meeting.

These workers are setting a good example. Redundancies and cost-cutting at the expense of workers always need to be met with resistance and too frequently in this country at present they aren’t.

If you’re anywhere near Rotorua you can go along to the march.

Otherwise you can like the workers’ facebook page, sign the petition against the Council moves, donate to the campaign and share the news to your friends, workmates and union.

Show your support: Rotorua Aquatics SOS – Save Our Staff

You can also email your disapproval to mayor Steve Chadwick and the Council CEO Geoff Williams:;

AWSM note: This article originally appeared at