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Strike action by Air New Zealand crew leaders leads to Living Wage breakthrough

Strike action by Air New Zealand cabin crew leaders has almost won the day with an agreement in principle that all crew will now start on the Living Wage rate or above and fly on any wide body aircraft.

 

Forty-four onboard crew leaders, responsible for the inflight and regulatory training of new crew, were on strike for 30 days in a row. The strike was a ban on training in order to focus attention on working conditions for returning crew.

 

While it hasn’t impacted the traveling public, it has meant a delay in getting new crew signed off to return to work.

 

Despite their years of experience, crew returning to work after being made redundant during the Covid crisis were put back onto the airline’s minimum start rates, with no recognition of their skills and years of experience.

Another reason for the strike was concern about crew’s work hours on direct flights to New York, which would see them potentially working up to 22 hours.

Two E tū delegates, who were also on the bargaining team, say the strike action was about “paying it forward” and improving conditions in the long run for their lower paid colleagues.

Delegate Sandie Bartlett admits that the situation was tough for everyone, with the strike impacting on the very crew it was trying to help.

“We just had to keep saying to the returning crew, ‘Hang in there with us, just let us try to get something for you and before you know it you’ll be on the aircraft and [the strike] will be a distant memory.’

Another delegate, Tony Krauth says timing the strikes for when returning crew were being rehired on new contracts was “absolutely critical” to getting a good outcome and lifting their conditions.

“We felt compelled, without question, to act on the remuneration imbalance we saw for returning crew,” he says.

“To our mind, it left us with no other option than to take industrial action. It was our one chance to spotlight the minimum wage issue.”

Tony says the issue of crew working up to 22 hours in the case of delay on the New York route is still unresolved with no clear improvements for crew.

Crew will need to work to the upper limits of the 22 hour provision to receive the additional allowance incentives, but in reality these may rarely be earned, he says.

“We’re hopeful that our returning crew will find their feet over the next two years and have the resolve to significantly improve the 22-hour duty limitation terms and conditions.”

E tū delegates play key role in new media merger

A joint TVNZ/RNZ delegates committee has been established to make sure workers’ interests are well represented in the big media merger between TVNZ and RNZ and popular TVNZ correspondent and E tū member Barbara Dreaver, is appointed to the new entity’s establishment board.

E tū members aim to ensure that workers’ voice is at the heart of decision making during the transition and workers are empowered to participate in its creation and future.

Members working as journalists at the two state-owned media companies are cautiously optimistic about the possibilities ahead.

Delegate Garth Bray, who works at TVNZ, says it makes more sense to think of the merger as an “integration” as there is no talk of cuts to jobs.

“Every indication we’ve had from every level is that this is actually about preserving journalism and keeping it strong, and making sure that it’s got a future and making sure that those people that do those jobs have jobs, and have good jobs. That’s quite a heartening thing.”

The test will be seeing how things play out once the new entity is in place, he says.

Garth says there’s also the sense of a “stocktake” – working out how things work currently at both companies and how they might work together in the future.

RNZ delegate Phil Pennington says how the entity would run – its structure and funding – was still unclear, and worker input in the next year into how that pans out is hugely important, through the likes of the worker rep on the establishment board.

“RNZ comes to the integration much more widely unionised than TVNZ,  and with good conditions, but nevertheless with pay well behind public sector median rates – something that has started to be directly addressed in the last 12 months,” Phil says.

“This reflects the pressures on the funding model. How will these be addressed in the new entity?

“It is an ideal time for collective input by workers to the companies and government to help make an entity that serves New Zealanders better,” he says.

In March, the Government announced a proposal that would see broadcasters TVNZ and RNZ combined into a single entity, known at the moment as the “Public Media Entity” or PME.

The purpose of the PME would be to provide news and entertainment as a public service, run as a non-profit organisation.

Legislation would be put in place to ensure that the organisation maintained its editorial independence, with funding coming from the Government and advertising.

The intention is to have the PME up and running by July 2023.

E tū has pop-up jobs expo at printing factory

From one day to the next, around 150 workers at a major printing factory found themselves facing notice of redundancy without any consultation.

Ovato, a major producer of magazines in New Zealand, announced that it would be closing the headset printing arm of its business in April at its only remaining plant in Auckland.

But within a day of the media covering the story and companies ringing in with offers of work, E tū set up a mini job expo with around 10 businesses to help Ovato members get into new roles in industries that need similar skills.

These jobs all offered E tū collective agreements and union conditions.

Longtime delegate Bart de Prinse, who was at the company on and off for more than 20 years, says the job expo offered roles and opportunities that would draw on members’ transferable skills.

The pop-up jobs expo was held in Ovato’s lunchroom

“Printing in itself is quite a varied market – there are quite a few different types of printing. There was a good variation of roles there.”

Bart says in the rush of the proposal, some Ovato staff didn’t know yet if they’d be staying to help with the closure or were no longer required.

“There are still a lot of people looking for answers which is sad, but hopefully that will be sorted.

“E tū has been quite supportive and the company cooperated. Everybody’s come together to help the staff as best they can.”

Pulp factory workers strike and win one of ‘best settlements’ ever

E tū members have won a pay rise of more than 9.2% over two years at Winstone Pulp.

Workers are delighted with their recent settlement and believe their strike on overtime played a big part in the win.

All union members will now see the pay-off of their organising and refusal to work overtime during the summer period.

E tū members, who mostly work in the maintenance team, also won an increased overtime rate of T1.7 for tradies.

Negotiation talks for their collective broke down just before Christmas when Winstone Pulp International (WPI) came back offering no increase in pay for members.

Members in E tū and FIRST Union voted unanimously for industrial action by way of an overtime ban.

The company then offered a one-off payment instead of a pay increase.

However, members didn’t think this was fair, after accepting only small pay rises over the years in order to help the company out.

Winstone Pulp delegate Dan Abernethy says after the strike things resolved faster than he thought they would.

E tū delegate Dan Abernethy

“We also got a lot more than I thought we would – we were actually quite surprised,” he says.

“This is one of the best settlements that we’ve ever had at WPI.”

By February, the parties were in mediation and the company came to the table with not a one- but a two-year deal, which Dan says has worked out well for members in the longer term.

“Reading between the lines, I think that basically management wanted to get the place up and running and back to normal as soon as possible.”

Dan says Covid has complicated what has been a tumultuous time for the pulp industry, as business is affected by many factors, including transport costs, power prices, and buyers paying on time.

Care and support workers’ huge push for rates renewal

Thousands of care and support workers around the country from multiple unions are standing up to preserve and increase the value of their pay and to ensure hard fought for training and progression gains are not lost.

Back in 2017, for the first time in their working lives, this group of 65,000 workers won historic pay increases and improvements thanks to the Care and Support (Pay Equity) Settlement.

Now, with the rates and pay scales that were set down in 2017 set to expire, E tū members and members from other unions are putting pressure on the Government to renew and renegotiate the settlement.

From December to February, hundreds took time to write their own personal messages to the Ministry of Health, explaining how the original settlement had improved their lives and how desperately they needed rates to continue to increase in the face of huge living costs.

Members have also been taking time to meet with their local MPs, after doing some lobbying training.

E tū Community Support Services Industry Council member, Ruby Sayer, is only 23, but has been working in aged care homes since she was just 15.

She says updating rates would make care and support a better career path for workers.

“I definitely support it 100%, because the last three years have been hellish with Covid 19. I want to set myself up for the future,” she says.

After months of waiting for an outcome, the Government has secured a mandate to start negotiations to renew the settlement by 1 July.

However, the proposed rates are likely to be lower than what workers have asked for in their claim, which is why care and support workers nationwide will need to be ready to mobilise for fair rates which respect their work.

Ruby says care work is a very physically and mentally draining job and continued pay increases are needed.

“It’s not always a nice industry to work in but if we were able to make it an industry that people want to work in then that’s great.

“I just think it’s going to change a whole lot of people’s lives if it goes ahead – it will really help so many people, including people we care for as well.”

That original settlement included continuing increases up to 1 July last year, but it expires on 30 June this year, with no guarantee the value will be maintained after that.

It was initiated by aged care worker Kristine Bartlett, who argued that workers had been underpaid for decades because most of them were women.

New Plymouth care and support members meet with local Labour MP Glen Bennett

E tū court win pushes back IDEA Services’ attack on members’ rights

It’s a win for now for IDEA Services members who care for intellectually disabled clients all around the country, after they won the right to keep bargaining for their collective agreement.

Due to the pandemic, bargaining had been legally extended but IDEA Services filed a case to have this removed.

The organisation also pushed back against following the current collective or dealing with E tū.

In court, the judge ruled that the bargaining extension stays and that IDEA needs to continue to uphold members’ rights in the collective agreement.

Community Support Services Industry Council member Gordon Cambridge says he feels IDEA is trying to “wear down” members with their strategy.

“Right from the start of this current bargaining, it felt that they have been in no rush to settle whatsoever.”

IDEA has appealed the court’s ruling, and mediation between E tū and IDEA continues.

Upping mileage rates to help home support workers as petrol prices soar

Home support members have won increased mileage rates after subsidising the health system by paying their own work costs in the face of rising petrol prices.

Taking their case to the media, long-time delegate Tarsh Dixon told radio station RNZ about the impact that cost was having on workers.

She also created a petition that very quickly garnered nearly two thousand signatures.

District Health Boards announced in March that they would be topping up mileage rates from 58.5 cents to 63.5 cents per kilometre until the end of June, while petrol prices were unusually high. Other funders soon followed suit.

Tarsh says she’s really happy to see workers getting an interim mileage rate rise.

However, she says workers will be fighting for a further rise to reach the IRD’s 79 cents per kilometre rate after the temporary rate expires on 30 June.

Support workers submitted their feedback for the annual review which sets the mileage rates, highlighting how much they were spending to subsidise the health system.

“Union members taking collective action to achieve change needs to continue so that this issue of home support workers’ being disadvantaged and out of pocket by having to top up our petrol and car expenses is dealt with for good.”

DHB workers win Living Wage

The Living Wage rate of $22.75 is now the starting rate for members at DHBs across Aotearoa, with 8–13% pay increases for all workers during its three-year term.

E tū service workers have renewed their multi-employer collective agreement (MECA) with pay rises, enhanced sick leave, and a new allowance for those who train (buddy) new workmates.

Another key win has been a Te Tiriti clause, which recognises employer’s obligations to Māori workers, including giving powers to ensure that tikanga is upheld when decisions are made.

E tū delegate Leanne Terriss, who works as a cleaner at Hutt Valley DHB, says the new collective is “fantastic”.

“All the members love it, agree with it, and are happy with it. It was a really good win.”

Working groups have also been formed to look at ongoing issues, such as the laundering of uniforms, and must meet within one year of the collective’s ratification.

This win sets the standard for bargaining with the DHB contractors, which kicks off in May.

Watershed workers organise and win best conditions in years

Thanks to growing union membership, Watershed workers have won the best conditions they’ve had in years.

From just two members to more than 30, membership at Watershed is on the rise and together they are improving their working lives.

Part of the Multi-Employer Collective Agreement for Cleaners last June, members say their relationship with the company is going from strength to strength.

Now they have hardly reported any issues with their pay, even during the Covid crisis.

Ninety-day trials have been scrapped and members have signed a memorandum to meet regularly with the company whenever issues crop up.

Delegate Teresa King says the workers cleaning at the South Auckland school where she works are much happier these days.

“They work together as a team, not like before when people would say ‘that’s not my job’.”

Teresa says she was originally reluctant to join the union and pay fees, but having seen the conditions at various schools, she sees how being a union member can help make work life better.

“If you don’t have the union, the school and the employer can do whatever they want to do.”