Month: August 2020

Union warns no more ‘job slashing’ in wake of Air New Zealand loss

E tū wants to see the country’s national airline carrier putting airline workers and their jobs at the centre of the aviation sector’s recovery in the wake of its reported full-year loss.

On Thursday, Air New Zealand announced an after-tax loss of $454 million for the 2020 financial year.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, thousands of workers have been made redundant, been put on furlough, or taken extended leave without pay.

An E tū cabin crew member, who prefers not to be named, says although the company had recently thanked staff and was going through cost-saving measures to protect jobs, it now needed to “put its money where its mouth is” with regards to its people.

“There’s always a fear of redundancy. I don’t think anyone feels comfortable right now or could say with 100% certainty that their job is safe.”

They say the way that the wave of redundancies was handled during the first lockdown has left a “bitter taste” behind.

“It was the speed with which the redundancies happened – the fact that people were isolated and unable to get together and talk about it. There’s a sense that there’s always the chance that [the company] could have saved more jobs.”

E tū’s Head of Aviation Savage says the “heavy-handed way” in which Air New Zealand went about its cost reductions, including its clumsy handling of fare refunds, has damaged its reputation with the public and with employees.

“They are no longer the respected brand they once were, and the approach to cost reduction via mass redundancies is not a sustainable strategy.

“Air New Zealand needs to do far better by its employees and not just always fall back on a blunt measure, like slashing jobs.”

Savage says if the airline can’t rebuild trust and ensure the safety of their staff and the travelling public, then it will struggle to recover.

“Any moves to cut more jobs, or to outsource work – like Qantas has – in order to save money and decrease the wages of working Kiwis, would severely damage its reputation even further,” he says.

“As the country’s national carrier, the airline needs to ensure there are well-paid, decent jobs, and to give workers have a proper say in what’s happening, with their voices leading the recovery.”

ENDS

For more information and comment:
Savage, 027 590 0074

John Ryall: Bright Stars, Comets, and Union Activism

John Ryall is the former Assistant National Secretary of E tū. This article was originally published in the Labour History Project Bulletin.

In my long experience as a union organiser I have met many memorable people who became great leaders in their workplaces, in their communities and in wider social movements.

Some of these leaders were active in the union for decades and some of them for only a short time.

While I have fond memories of all of them, the ones that appeared like comets in the night sky, shone brightly and then disappeared, have always fascinated me.

One of these people was a Wellington Hospital orderly called Alan Wakefield.

I had been appointed as an organiser with the Wellington Hotel and Hospital Workers Union in June 1982 and the largest site in my organising patch was Wellington Hospital.

Wellington Hospital, along with three other public hospitals in my patch (Porirua, Kenepuru and Paraparaumu Hospitals), were run by the Wellington Hospital Board.

The Hotel and Hospital Workers Union had about 700 members in these four hospitals working as food service workers, orderlies, security workers and cleaners.

The Wellington Hospital orderlies were an interesting male-dominant group who complained about everything, but unlike the female-dominant cleaners and food service workers were reluctant to take collective action to get their issues resolved.

My first experience of them was of them moaning about why they had to be in the same national award as the cleaners and food service workers. They felt their jobs were more important and valuable than cleaning or kitchen work and they would do better by themselves. Much of this was in response to the equal pay settlement in the 1970s, where the female rates had been removed affecting the historical relativities between cleaners, kitchenhands and orderlies.

The day after I commenced employment with the Hotel and Hospital Workers Union the then Prime Minister Muldoon imposed a wage freeze, which lasted until his Government was defeated in June 1984. During this period it was illegal to negotiate awards or other collective agreements that increased pay rates.

The wage freeze did not mean that there were no workplace disputes. The orderlies had issues about the interpretation of their current award conditions and about their increasing workloads as the Wellington Hospital Board tried to make savings by non-replacement of staff who left employment.

In late 1984, with the incoming Labour Government’s removal of the wage freeze, the union was gearing up to renegotiate the Hospital Domestic Workers Award, which covered the Wellington Hospital orderlies.

I arranged meetings at the public hospitals in the Wellington area (including the Hutt, Silverstream and Elderslea Hospitals) in order to discuss the improvements that members wanted to make to the award conditions. There was a separate paid meeting for the Wellington Hospital orderlies, held by arrangement with the management at the shift changeover time in the afternoon. Prior to the meeting I had discussed the importance of the meeting with the workplace delegates and relied on them to ensure all of the 60 orderlies attended the meeting.

When I turned up the meeting there were only five members present, including three who were elected delegates. To my disappointment the delegates didn’t seem too concerned about the turnout saying that the Head Orderly wouldn’t release members from their duties and they would simply relay any information back to the members.

I continued the meeting, which was held in the orderlies tea room, with the five members. Near the end of the meeting an orderly walked into the tea room heading for the change area. He stopped and said “what’s going on here?” I explained that this was a union meeting in preparation for the union negotiating improvements to wage rates and working conditions. He asked why he hadn’t been told of the meeting. I looked at the delegates and said “never mind, you are here now, so let’s go back and quickly give you a briefing on what is going on.”

At the end of the meeting I introduced myself to the new orderly, whose name was Alan Wakefield. He had only commenced employment as an orderly in July 1984 but was full of energy about the action that was needed to improve the orderly wages and employment conditions.

I indicated to him that nothing was going to change unless we developed some delegates who were able to excite the members about winning better conditions. He had been a workplace delegate for the Drivers Union at a previous job. He agreed with my assessment and said he would talk to others and see what he could do.

A week later he phoned me to say that he had talked to the members, held a meeting in the tea room and they had elected him as one of the orderly delegates. He had a list of issues that the orderlies wanted to pursue in the award negotiations, which were due to take place in Auckland in January 1985.

Alan and a number of other delegates from Wellington were keen to attend the award negotiations in Auckland and so I arranged with the union secretary for us to hire a van and to transport 8 delegates to Auckland, who would be “observers” at the award negotiations.

The appearance of our 8 Wellington delegates was a shock to the Hotel and Hospital Workers Federation National Secretary and award advocate Russ Revell, who was not used to having a boisterous contingent of members in the back row while he was politely advocating our position to the Hospital Boards and contractors.

At that time the Government covered the accommodation costs for the small number of union negotiators, who were called assessors, but not the costs for observers. We made up for this by changing the rooms around and doubling up on people in the rooms so that the observers had somewhere to sleep and also smuggled them in a hotel breakfast.

What made it worse from Russ Revell’s perspective was that our contingent at later negotiations became even bigger as the other observer delegates from other parts of the country started pushing for more representation from their own areas.

The award negotiations occurred after a three year wage freeze and the 80 separate claims for improvements that the union put up to the Hospital Boards and hospital contractors did not impress them, especially when they thought there had been agreement between the central bodies of employers and unions for a “compressed” wage round.

The Hospital Boards and hospital contractors argued that because the award was “state-linked” and domestic workers in the state sector were paid less than the rates in the existing 1982 award that a wage reduction was in order. They followed this up with a demand that the union’s existing role in having to give consent to the introduction of part-time work must be removed. After two days the negotiations broke down.

I think the employers thought that they had the power to get what they wanted and that the union would eventually rollover to their demands without them having to offer any pay increase that was greater than the tiny increases that were then then being applied in the core state sector.

Alan didn’t wait for the union to call meetings to consider the outcome of the award negotiations. On his first day back at work he called a meeting with the orderlies and they rejected the employer position. He phoned me to report on the meeting and said the orderlies wanted to immediately put 24-hour bans on certain duties, including transporting dead bodies from the wards to the mortuary.

I gave him advice and encouragement and told him to go ahead and I would meet him at the hospital the next day.

By the time I arrived at the hospital the next day it was all on. I was summoned into the Head Orderly’s office and asked whether the union had given authority for the mortuary ban. I said that the ban was in line with us seeking an award allowance for the transportation of dead bodies and the action was a protest about the employers’ position.

They said they would not accept any bans unless notice was delivered to them in writing from myself or the union secretary, Peter Cullen. I said I was happy to do this.

The orderlies were excited about the action that was being taken and were in favour of extending it. They had full confidence in Alan’s leadership and felt proud of standing up for improved employment conditions.

Alan was always on the move taking up issues on behalf of members and calling meetings when the response was not positive. The Head and Deputy Head Orderlies had previously operated the department as if they were running a slave ship and when the slave mutiny commenced they were not happy. Any minor complaint about Alan was escalated to a major event and the disciplinary meetings and warnings started running thick and fast.

They complained that Alan did not come into the Head Orderly’s office for a quiet chat as the previous delegate had done and that there were too many meetings. Alan was direct and whether you were the lowest paid person in the hospital or the highest paid he would tell you what he thought. Telling the Deputy Head Orderly to “shut up” when he was being lectured about what he should nor should not be doing led to a warning for verbal abuse.  Another one followed near the end of February 1985.

As the award dispute continued the orderlies implemented a series of rolling bans on the keeping of records, the transfer of bodies to the mortuary, the movement of supplies from the stores and the handling of dirty linen and rubbish.

Alan played a prominent part in directing these activities and made frequent appearances on the radio and other media outlets talking about the dispute. The action at Wellington Hospital started spreading to other parts of the region and the rest of the country.

The union’s intention was to place pressure on the hospital management, but not to stop the operation of essential services.

During the middle of this action Wellington Hospital management employed some students as temporary nurse aides. These workers were not union members and had been employed specifically to do the work covered by the bans. Tension arose with the orderlies and Alan, as the main delegate, was right in the thick of it arguing that the strike breakers should be removed and holding orderly meetings to get support for this demand.

One of these meetings ended with the orderlies walking off the job for the rest of their shift causing chaos and confusion but leading to the hospital management withdrawing the strike breakers.

Alan was also involved in trying to stop the hospital management using volunteers to get around an orderly ban on the delivery of flowers to wards. His discussion with the volunteers was resented by the management and led to threats of further disciplinary action.

The Hospital Domestic Workers Award was finally settled on 6 March 1985 with a substantial wage increase and some improvements to allowances, including the creation of a new allowance for the transportation of dead bodies to the mortuary.

While the ratification of award settlements was not required under the existing employment legislation, Alan and I both agreed that a report back meeting and vote by the members was important.

Alan approached the Deputy Director of Administration John Joyce about holding a paid stopwork meeting to discuss the award settlement and some other issues about sick leave and weekend rostering. He agreed that a meeting could be held on Friday 22 March 1985.

However, when Alan talked over the details with the Acting Head Orderly an argument ensued over how the hospital would be staffed during the half-hour paid meeting. The Acting Head Orderly insisted that in addition to the Head and Deputy Head Orderly a further nine orderlies would need to remain on duty to cover the 30 day-shift orderlies who were on duty on that day. Alan argued that this was too many for a half-hour meeting and that the orderlies would keep their pagers on in case of any emergencies.

The arguments over the relief staffing during the meeting continued up to the time of the meeting, with no agreement. Alan was warned that if the meeting went ahead without the nine orderlies remaining on duty he would face disciplinary action.

With no agreement in place all of the orderlies went to the meeting.

Very wisely, at the commencement of the meeting Alan told the orderlies of the arguments about the staffing levels and about the threat that he could be dismissed if the meeting went ahead without the relief staffing that the management required. He asked the orderlies whether they wanted to go ahead with the meeting or for nine orderlies to go back to their posts. The orderlies moved a resolution that given there was no agreement reached on the relief staffing they would go ahead with the meeting involving all union members.

At the end of the meeting Alan and another delegate, George Kahu went to John Joyce’s office and met with him, the Acting Head Orderly and the Hospital Personnel Manager. John Joyce asked Alan whether he had complied with his instructions about the relief staff and when Alan replied that he had not, Alan was dismissed.

Alan and the other delegate returned to the room where the orderlies had remained following the meeting, and informed them of his dismissal. The orderlies voted to strike until Alan was reinstated.

The orderlies strike went on for 11 days, the longest strike of orderlies that I have ever been involved.

While the orderlies picketed the hospital and had support from both the cleaners and the food service workers refusing to carry out their duties and donating money to keep them fed, the hospital management was organising staff and outside volunteers to carry out the orderly work and running the line that Alan had been dismissed because of his alleged outrageous behaviour and aggression towards other staff members.

While Hotel and Hospital Workers Union members at both Porirua and Hutt Hospital took limited strike action to protest Alan’s dismissal the nurses and other workers at Wellington Hospital were not unionised in the same way as they are now and there was little support. The union was looking for other options to get Alan and the orderlies back to work.

The then Minister of Labour, Stan Rodger, was approached by the union and after much negotiation between the union and the Wellington Hospital Board, he called a compulsory conference under the chairmanship of Dunedin mediator Walter Grills, to enquire into all the circumstances of Alan’s dismissal and decide whether the dismissal was justified.

The terms of reference, which had been agreed between the parties and was confirmed in a formal Ministerial letter, stipulated that Alan would be off-the-job on full pay during the compulsory conference and if he was judged to be unjustifiably dismissed he would be immediately reinstated to his position at the hospital. The terms of reference also gave the power for the chair to make any other recommendations about relationships between delegates and orderlies department management.

When the Wellington Hospital Board agreed to put Alan on full pay during the period of the compulsory conference they must have been confident that this would only be for a short period and that Alan’s dismissal would be upheld.

The union and employer parties met with Walter Grills for four days at the beginning of May 1985. The union argued that the compulsory conference was not about the dismissal of an orderly but was about delegate victimisation and the refusal of the Wellington Hospital Directorate to accept independent union organisation at Wellington Hospital. The union presented statements from 10 witnesses supporting Alan Wakefield and condemning the approach of Wellington Hospital management towards union representatives.While the Wellington Hospital Board was expecting a quick decision, Walter Grills did not send out his written decision until 18 October 1985. By this time Alan had been off work on full pay for nearly eight months.

The decision of the compulsory conference was that Alan Wakefield had been unjustifiably dismissed because as a union delegate he was merely carrying out the instructions of his members in going ahead with a union meeting without leaving on the appropriate level of relief staff. If he was dismissed as a result of carrying out his duty as a union delegate, under instruction from his members, then he would have been discriminated against because of his union position.

The decision though came with a backhanded slap to the union about allowing strike action without the union’s general secretary being involved, about not pursuing arbitration in resolving disputes in essential services rather than resorting to strike action and indicating that if the Wellington Hospital Board had sought damages against the union, they would have been awarded.

However, none of this mattered as Alan Wakefield had been reinstated. While the Wellington Hospital management were appalled at the reinstatement, the orderlies assembled outside the hospital and carried Alan back into work on their shoulders, accompanying him to the Head Orderly’s office to sign in for work.

Alan had not enjoyed being off work for eight months as he was a very active type. Orderlies need to be fit because their job requires walking for long distances every day. When he came back to work it was not quite the same.

While he had been off work another orderly, Jock McMahon, had stepped forward to take over the delegate’s role. Jock was just as staunch as Alan but had a longer trade union history and had the negotiation and leadership skills to match it. Alan recognised his able replacement and stepped down as the delegate

Alan worked at the hospital for another couple of months and then quietly resigned.

The comet had shone brightly, the role of the union and its delegates had been reinforced and those who followed were in a far better position than if the light in the sky had never appeared.

Government walking the talk on the Living Wage for new MIQ guards

E tū is pleased with the Prime Minister’s announcement today that the Government is looking to directly employ any new security guards needed at managed isolation and quarantine facilities and guards will be paid at least the Living Wage.

Security guard Rosey Ngakopu says it is great news and very important.

“So many guards are doing really hard mahi through the COVID-19 crisis, and we need to be paid a wage that reflects that,” Rosey says.

“We’ve had to go above and beyond, doing extra duties and quickly reacting to the changing situation. We’re doing really important work that’s a big part of keeping the community safe at the moment.”

Rosey gets paid the Living Wage at one of her sites and says it has significantly improved her life.

“I now have a savings account. I can afford the things that my son and I need. I’ve been able to reduce my hours, so I can have more family time, rest, and even a social life!”

E tū Assistant National Secretary Annie Newman says it shows the Government is finally honouring the Living Wage promise that all three Government parties made in the 2017 election campaign.

“E tū members have kept the pressure on to make sure the Government pay the Living Wage to all workers in the core public sector like cleaners and security guards,” Annie says.

“Just last month, the Government delivered the Living Wage for guards at the Ministry of Social Development. We now need to see the Living Wage in all government contracts.

“Throughout the crisis, we’ve been constantly reminded just how important and often difficult these jobs are. Higher wages lead to healthier and more vibrant communities. It makes perfect sense for the Living Wage to be an important factor in the COVID-19 response and rebuild.”

ENDS

For more information or comment
Annie Newman, 027 204 6340

COVID-19: 17 August update

Dear members,

Auckland is now in Alert Level 3 and the rest of the country in Alert Level 2 until 11:59pm on Wednesday 27 August.

While we can be pleased that the current outbreak hasn’t made a full Level 4 lockdown necessary, these heightened alert levels still create a massive disruption for many. There is already renewed pressure on some E tū members’ jobs and many more are dealing with difficult changes at the workplace.

The most important thing to do right now is follow the public health advice. You should always get the most accurate information from th COVID-19 website: www.covid19.govt.nz

We’re compiling as much information for E tū members as possible about how the current situation affects different workplaces. Keep an eye on www.etu.nz/covid19 for regular updates.

Today, the Prime Minister announced her decision to delay the General Election until 17 October. For E tū, this means four extra weeks to make sure we are getting everyone enrolled to vote, engaged with election issues, and ready to elect a government that prioritises workers and our communities. Senior E tū staff will be doing a Facebook live update and Q&A tonight at 8pm, all about the latest developments

‘Significant redundancies’ proposed and possible mill closure for steel workers

Keeping local jobs as part of the New Zealand construction industry supply chain is essential, E tū union says, after the announcement of proposed redundancies by BlueScope Steel.

On Monday, the Australian-owned company warned of its plans to lay off “a substantial number” of staff as it reduces the scale of its New Zealand sites in Otahuhu and Glenbrook.

It reported a full-year operating loss of A$5.8 million for its operations in New Zealand and the Pacific Islands and has not ruled out complete closure of its Glenbrook mill.

E tū member Lance Gush, who works at New Zealand Steel’s Glenbrook mill, says while the extent of the redundancies isn’t yet known, the situation was causing anxiety for workers.

“We’ve seen press releases in Australian papers talking about mass redundancies, and it’s very concerning. The lack of information makes that worse,” he says.

“Obviously, this business is an extremely important landmark in the Glenbrook community and surrounding communities. Any layoffs would have a huge impact on the area.”

Lance says other redundancies, including voluntary redundancy and redeployment of workers, affecting up to 60 staff at Glenbrook were only formally confirmed on Friday last week.

E tū negotiation specialist Joe Gallagher says while the union acknowledges the “significant headwinds” faced by the company, such as power, carbon emissions and the competitive prices of imported steel, keeping local jobs was essential.

“Glenbrook is the only mill in the country that produces steel, and it’s really valuable to our economy. This business contributes to 1% of our GDP, with a direct benefit to the community of more than $135 million per year,” Joe says.

“One in four workers in the Glenbrook community are employed at the mill, and we’d like to see a guarantee from the Government that will ensure local procurement.”

Joe says retaining steel production onshore will keep the New Zealand construction industry strong and keep valuable production lines open, rather than relying exclusively on imported steel.

ENDS

For more information and comment:
Joe Gallagher, 027 591 0015

COVID-19: 13 August update

Dear E tū members,
 
As we find ourselves facing a new lockdown period, we wish to reassure you that E tū remains fully able and ready to advise and support our members throughout this time.
 
E tū Auckland area members are advised to work from home where possible from 12pm on Wednesday 12 August for a minimum of three days. Essential services and businesses that are able to operate safely will continue as per the Government’s COVID-19 guidelines.

All others on Level 2 must take COVID-19 health protection measures very seriously over that period.
 
Please keep an eye on www.covid19.govt.nz for the latest info.
 
Our staff in Auckland must operate from home, but we are equipped to do that. We are also aware that the Alert Level periods may be extended.
 
We know that many of our members are essential workers or may be working over this period, and we thank you for the wonderful services you  provide to your whanau and communities all the time, including during our last lockdown.

We were here for our members through the last lockdown. We had your back. We remain here for you.
 
In this lockdown period, please remember:

  • You are entitled to your full ordinary pay when required to be at home, unless your employment agreement says otherwise.  Contact your delegate or an organiser at 0800 186 466 if you’re unsure.
  • Members are strongly advised not to agree to be paid less or to use leave entitlements in place of ordinary pay.
  • Employers of members continuing to work must have clear COVID-19 safety protocols in the workplace and provide adequate PPE to protect your health and safety in as far as is practical.
  • Members, who are vulnerable due to health concerns or immune compromised, are advised to take extra precautions if continuing to work. Discuss any concerns with your GP.

If you are in doubt then talk with your delegate, health and safety reps, employer, or contact E tū on 0800 1 UNION or [email protected]. Please understand that given the circumstances, this may mean longer waiting times than usual.

Now is a good time to remember that E tū has core principles for how we handle COVID-19, which are the building blocks of our Rebuild Better campaign:

  • Prioritise community health and wellbeing
  • Workers’ wages leading the recovery
  • Keep and create decent jobs
  • Union members involved in all decisions
  • End inequality

For more details on this, check out: www.rebuildbetter.nz

We’ll keep our website up to date with all the latest info as well: www.etu.nz 
Above all, take care, be kind, and take COVID-19 precautions.

Thank you,
Bill Newson
E tū National Secretary

Changes to New Zealand’s Alert Levels from 12 August

New Zealand’s Alert Levels are changing from 12pm on Wednesday 12 August.

Auckland will move to Alert Level 3, and the rest of New Zealand will move to Alert Level 2. As per the most recent COVID-19 update from the Government, see below for more.

Auckland

Work

Under Alert Level 3, you are encouraged work from home if you can.

Travel and self-isolation

If you are currently in Auckland and do not live in Auckland, we suggest that you go home. Practise good hygiene and be conscious of your health. We recommend that you keep your bubble small.

Businesses

Businesses are able to open, but should not physically interact with customers.

Essential services including healthcare, justice services and businesses providing necessities are able to open.

Bars and restaurants should close, but takeaways are allowed.

Education

Schools in Auckland can safely open but will have limited capacity. Where possible we encourage students to learn from home.

When you’re out and about

Maintain physical distancing of two metres outside your home, including on public transport.

It is highly recommended that you wear a mask if you are out and about.

Public transport can continue to operate with strict health and safety requirements. You should maintain physical distancing and wearing a mask.

Public venues should close. This includes libraries, museums, cinemas, food courts, gyms, pools, playgrounds and markets.

Gatherings

Gatherings of up to 10 people can continue, but only for wedding services, funerals and tangihanga. Physical distancing and public health measures should be maintained.

At-risk people

People at high risk of severe illness such as older people and those with existing medical conditions are encouraged to stay at home where possible, and take additional precautions when leaving home.

Rest of New Zealand

The rest of New Zealand will move to Alert Level 2 at 12pm on Wednesday 12 August. Under Alert Level 2, the following restrictions apply.

You can still continue to go to work and school, with physical distancing.

Wear masks if you can in public.

No more than 100 people at gatherings, including weddings, birthdays, funerals and tangihanga.

Businesses can open to the public if they are following public health guidance, which include physical distancing and record keeping.

People at higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19, for example those with underlying medical conditions and old people are encouraged to take additional precautions when leaving home.

Practice good hygiene – stay home if sick.

Huge Living Wage victory for MSD guards

Ministry of Social Development (MSD) security guards across the country are thrilled today to learn that they will finally be moving up to at least the Living Wage of $22.10 per hour.

Minister for Social Development Carmel Sepuloni announced today that around 400 Tautiaki (security guards) will be paid at least the Living Wage from 1 September.

 It comes after years of campaigning for public service workers who are employed by contractors to be paid at least the Living Wage.

MSD keep Work and Income offices across the country safe and secure. They are often posted outside Work and Income offices for hours at a time in all weather.

Robert Duston says it can be a hard job, but one he enjoys.

“I like being able to help less fortunate people have a good day and feel that they’ve had a good experience. “Yes the Living Wage has taken a long time, but I’m really happy the Government has recognised we’re worth it.”

Robert says: “It’s my 50th birthday next year and earning the Living Wage for me means that I can start saving to go on a holiday and not have to worry about paying bills along the way.”

E tū organiser Yvette Taylor says that the announcement amounts to a promise finally honoured by the Government.

“In 2017, all three government parties committed to paying at least the Living Wage to people employed by contractors in the core public service,” Yvette says.

“The way to deliver that is by making the Living Wage the minimum rate that people must be paid when negotiating with government contractors for services like security.

ENDS

For more information and comment:
Yvette Taylor, 027 585 6120

Fight for #safestaffingnow continues around the country

The joint campaign to push the Government to commit to safer staffing levels in aged care continues around the country with two North Island actions.

E tū members and delegates will be holding two photo opportunities in Gisborne on Thursday to raise awareness of how a lack of staff affects carers and residents as part of the union’s national #safestaffingnow campaign.

E tū delegate and aged care worker at Te Wiremu House Josephine Culshaw says not having enough staff makes it “very hard” to provide safe care.

“You’re very quick – just getting what you need to get done and moving onto the next resident.

“On our rest home’s website, it’s all about quality for the resident and giving them the best, but we can’t do that when it’s just me and one other person [on duty].”

Without mandatory staffing levels, it makes it hard to get the company to take workers’ concerns seriously, Josephine says.

“It would be great to say, by law, we need to have so many staff to residents. It gives you something to stand on. As things are now, it’s the company’s call if they want to save some money [by having less staff on].”

Home support workers will also be holding a stop-work meeting at Age Concern Tairawhiti on the same day to discuss the impacts of moving key coordinator roles to Auckland and the gross underfunding, reduction of hours, and understaffing across the sector.

Staffing levels in aged care homes are not mandatory and voluntary guidelines are woefully outdated, with as little as three staff for more than 60 residents.

E tū Director Sam Jones says the situation won’t change until the Government updates the recommended staff-to-resident ratios and makes them mandatory at all rest homes.

“Not only are the current guidelines completely out of date, but they’re also voluntary, which means aged care facilities are not held accountable at all for providing an adequate and safe number of staff to residents.

“As far back as 2010, Labour and the Greens recommended making staffing levels compulsory. But since their election in 2017, so far there’s been no follow-through,” he says.

“In the wake of COVID-19, having a regulated number of staff to care for residents is absolutely essential.”

The #safestaffing photo opportunities will be at Te Wiremu House at 12pm and Age Concern Tairawhiti at 1pm on Thursday 6 August.

ENDS

For more information and comment:
Sam Jones, 027 544 8563