Author: E tū

Fifth strike for rest home workers over proposed cuts to pay and hours despite staffing shortage

Tension is growing at a Northland town’s only rest home, as union members prepare to strike again with management refusing to back down on plans to cut weekend rates and making fresh proposals to reduce hours for some, despite bringing in unvaccinated workers when the home was short staffed.

E tū members working at the Claud Switzer Memorial Trust rest home in Kaitaia have been in negotiations for a new collective agreement since March.

However, the trust refuses to remove problematic clawbacks, including a proposal to reduce weekend allowance rates from $5 extra per hour to $12 for a whole shift, which for some would mean losing thousands from their annual income.

Several E tū members are now also facing a possible reduction in their overall hours. However, in the past fortnight, the employer brought in unvaccinated workers under exemption to fill staffing shortages – a move members say neither they nor the residents were notified about.

An E tū member, who doesn’t wish to be named, says morale at work is at an all-time low and the situation is getting worse.

“Members are unhappy – the whole picture is unhappy. This has just been ongoing and ongoing and ongoing. The collective needs to be sorted and it needs to be signed.

“We also want to see our hours secured. It’s ridiculous and makes no sense why they would suggest cuts to workers’ hours when we are so short staffed already.”

The member says they are also seriously concerned about the lack of training and supervision for new staff.

Annie Tothill, E tū spokesperson and organiser at the site, says she believes the current situation could have been avoided, had the trust offered a fair settlement of the members’ collective agreement.

“Staff turnover is already high, and when workers feel disrespected and undervalued, it inevitably affects their commitment and desire to stay.

“That’s why fair conditions and pay are so important to retain safe levels of staffing and quality care for residents.

“In our view, it defies all logic and morality to propose a reduction in some members’ hours, when the management claims there is a staffing shortage and was prepared to risk having staff who are not vaccinated caring for vulnerable and elderly residents.”

Annie says strike action was not a decision that was taken lightly, nor without regard for the vulnerable residents that E tū members care for.

“They feel this is their only option to defend their current terms and allowances. It’s a last resort.”

Members would welcome a meeting with the board of Claud Switzer Memorial Trust to raise their concerns, resolve the current impasse, and come to a fair agreement on the members’ collective agreement, she says.

E tū members are also calling on the community to support them: “We need them to back us up and tell the rest home to sort this out.”

E tū members will be striking outside Claud Switzer Memorial Trust rest home, 71 South Road, Kaitaia on Thursday 16 December and Friday 17 December from 7am to 9am.

ENDS

For more information and comment:
Annie Tothill, 027 573 4934

Aged care workers: Safe staffing must be mandatory in 2022

Workers at aged care home and hospitals across Aotearoa New Zealand will take action at their workplaces and at Parliament this December in the fight to win mandatory safe staffing.

On 9 December, union members from E tū and NZNO, supported by national seniors network, Grey Power, plan to present a parliamentary petition and an open letter with almost 7000 signatures, calling for safe staffing levels to become mandatory across the sector.

Current staffing guidelines are voluntary only, implemented at the discretion of each aged care provider. They are also woefully outdated, having been drawn up nearly 20 years ago in 2005.

E tū Community Support Services Industry Council Convenor and aged care worker Marianne Bishop says workers feel incredibly stretched and frustrated due to low staffing numbers, and they aren’t able to provide the level of care they’d like – an issue that has only been compounded during the Covid crisis.

“We want to be able to provide quality care and have quality time with residents. It’s not enough to just ‘do what we have time to do’.

“We hate not being able to answer bells quickly and not being able to check on residents more regularly, because sometimes when we do get there, it’s too late,” she says.

“If we were an older person or not able to do things for ourselves, how would we feel – having to wait half an hour, or an hour? If that was a member of our whānau, how would we feel?”

Marianne says to win safe staffing, aged care workers need the support of the whole country.

Grey Power President Jan Pentecost says that the organisation is 100% behind the push for safe staffing.

“We absolutely support aged care workers in their fight to win mandatory safe staffing, quite simply because many of our members and their families rely on staffing levels to be safe.

“But for that to happen, there needs to be mandatory standards in place.”

E tū spokesperson Jody Anderson says aged care workers and unions want to see a law setting down the minimum staffing levels that an aged care home or hospital must have in place.

“Our members and the residents they care for simply cannot wait any longer for this. They have been asking and campaigning for this protective legislation for more than a decade,” she says.

“In the meantime, the care they are being asked to provide gets more complex as workers are treating residents with higher needs, all with the same number of staff – a number that’s often all too low as worker shortages and lack of staffing laws bite.”

“We need everyone – aged care workers, their whānau, the family members of those in care homes, and our communities – to join together to send a strong, clear message to our Government: we need safe staffing and we need it now.”

ENDS

For more information and comment:
Jody Anderson, 027 204 6370

Uber’s NZ tax gap estimated on heels of global taxation reform

Following a meeting of world leaders to finalise global rules on multinational tax avoidance, an alliance of groups has estimated that, in New Zealand alone, Uber avoided $6.4 to $12.8 million in corporate tax in the year 2020. 

The report from the Centre for International Corporate Tax Accountability and Research (CICTAR), FIRST Union and E tū highlights how Uber employs a network of more than 50 Dutch shell companies and uses other tax havens, including Bermuda, Delaware and Singapore to shelter it from paying billions in tax across its global operations. 

“New Zealanders should be concerned about how multinationals like Uber, that rely so heavily on investments in public infrastructure like roads and hospitals, are blatantly shirking their tax obligations,” said CICTAR Principal Analyst Jason Ward. 

“Uber’s estimated tax gap of $6.4 to 12.8 million in 2020 is money that could have been spent staffing hospital wards or training apprentices. Instead, it was squirreled away in Uber’s billion-dollar Dutch tax shelter, which if unchallenged will allow the company to avoid billions in corporate tax as its operations continue to expand.” 

FIRST Union Strategic Project Coordinator Anita Rosentreter said the report highlights the dangerous impact of gig economy firms. 

“Uber’s business combines an exploitative labour model that robs workers of their rights with a global tax structure that robs the public purse of the tax revenue we all rely on to keep our society thriving,” said Rosentreter.  

E tū Director Kirsty McCully warned that if left unchallenged, the expansion of the gig economy would lead to even more workers losing out. 

“More and more app-based multinationals are popping up in Aotearoa and they all look to Uber to see what they can get away with,” said McCully. “We mustn’t let these corporations continue to short-change our country and get away with avoiding their responsibilities – whether to our country or to their workforce.” 

E tū and FIRST Union are taking legal action against Uber, seeking a declaration from the Employment Court that Uber’s workforce are employees rather than independent contractors.  

“This is a matter of principle and it is important to workers everywhere – a massive global corporation like Uber should not get away profiting by denying workers their rights,” said Rosentreter. 

“Businesses operating in New Zealand, as a minimum, must pay tax and respect our laws, like everyone else.” 

The report comes as 137 OECD/G20 countries and jurisdictions this month finalised the Inclusive Framework on Base Erosion and Profit Shifting, aiming to reform international taxation rules and ensure that multinational enterprises pay a fair share of tax wherever they operate. 

The report has been delivered to Ministers David Parker (Revenue), Stuart Nash (Economic Development) and Michael Wood (Workplace Relations). 

The full report can be found here

ENDS 

For more information, contact: 

Jason Ward | Principal Analyst, Centre for International Corporate Tax Accountability and Research (CICTAR) 

Email: [email protected] 
Mobile: +61 (0)488 190 457 

Anita Rosentreter | Strategic Project Coordinator – Transport, Logistics and Manufacturing, FIRST Union 

Email: [email protected] 
Mobile: +64 (0)21 626 094 

Kirsty McCully | Director – Member Led Organising, E tū 

Email: [email protected]  
Mobile: +64 (0)27 204 6354 

Labour keeps their Living Wage promise

E tū is thrilled that the Labour Government have kept their word on their election commitment to ensure cleaners, security guards, and caterers employed by contractors in the public service will be paid at least the Living Wage.

From 1 December, contracts procured by Government for those services will require the contractors to pay at least the Living Wage rate ($22.75).

Wages must also go up annually, in line with the New Zealand Labour Cost Index (LCI).

E tū Assistant National Secretary, Annie Newman, says that the Living Wage is an important part of the Government’s wider programme to improve Aotearoa.

“The Government is demonstrating their commitment to social procurement, which E tū has been campaigning for,” Annie says.

“As both a direct and indirect employer of so many workers in Aotearoa, they have a responsibility to make sure that procurement decisions are made with the wider social impacts considered.

“It’s obvious that this is the right way forward – low wages and poverty create and exacerbate so many of the biggest challenges the Government faces.

“Getting more money into the pockets of the families that need it most is a no-brainer,” she says.

Annie adds that guaranteeing increases in line with the LCI is particularly encouraging.

“As the cost of living continuously rises, so must wages. A one-off pay increase is great, but pegging it to wage growth makes it more sustainable.

Annie says that the next big step the Government can take for low paid workers is to implement good Fair Pay Agreement legislation.

“Wages are just one part of the picture. Workers deserve better minimums across all sorts of areas, including training, meaningful contribution to workplace decision making, and health and safety.

“We are looking forward to the Government bringing their Fair Pay Agreement bill to its First Reading so that E tū members can let them know just how transformative this new system will be.”

ENDS

For more info and comment:
Annie Newman, 027 204 6340

Rest home strike continues: “Our employer’s not listening”

Workers at the sole rest home in a rural Northland town are striking again over proposed pay cuts to their allowances and other problematic clauses in their new collective agreement.

Members at Claud Switzer Rest Home in Kaitaia have been in negotiations since May, and in desperation for their employer to listen, have started taking strike action.

The employer wants to cut or reduce members’ allowances and other benefits, notably reducing pay for weekend work, removing workers’ job security with a force majeure clause, and other changes to their conditions of employment.

Management also circulated documents to workers that threaten possible redundancies and a decrease in the number of beds, due to an implied lack of building and refurbishment funds if workers don’t accept the new collective agreement. 

Longtime worker at Claud Switzer and E tū member Kam Wijohn, who only works weekends so she can care for her grandchildren during the week, says workers at the home are feeling angry and unhappy about the situation.

“We feel that our employer isn’t listening to how we’re feeling,” she says.

“We have mortgages, we’re trying to pay for our own homes. To have that cut in pay would be really hard – we rely on that pay.”

Kam estimates that she’d potentially be losing thousands from her pay per year if her weekend allowance is eventually reduced from an extra $5 per hour to just $12 for the whole shift.

“My husband is on minimum wage. That’s why we compromise – he works during the week while I care for the grandkids, and I work the weekends.”

Kam says she’s also worried about another clause which would potentially give the employer the right to terminate workers on medical grounds, without necessarily providing time to recover or for a plan to return to work.

Residents are also aware of what’s going on for workers, she says.

“The workers are unhappy, and the residents are unhappy that we’re unhappy.”

E tū organiser Annie Tothill says the proposed agreement will only exacerbate the short staffing situation in the home and increase turnover.

“Staff turnover is already increasing, rosters issued are full of gaps, and staff levels on the weekends are becoming unsafe. Staff morale is very low,” she says.

“In our view, the employer will spend more money in recruiting and training new staff than what they may save reducing allowances.”

Annie says the employer has not acted well during the negotiation process, including shifting the goalposts by going back on their word to make additions that hadn’t been previously discussed.

Members will continue to take action until they reach a fair agreement, she says.

“The members at Claud Switzer are very committed to their residents and genuinely care for the people they look after,” she says.

“The positive support and response they’ve received from the community only reinforce their commitment to stand together for decent pay and conditions, which are so badly needed in the aged care sector.”

E tū members will be striking on Saturday 30 October from 8am-10am outside Claude Switzer Rest Home, 71 South Road, Kaitaia.

ENDS

For more information and comment:
Annie Tothill, 027 573 4934

Care workers deserve decent work too – #CAREday21

This Friday 29 October marks a global day of action for investment and decent work in care – #CAREday21. As the world continues to navigate the health and socioeconomic crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, millions of care workers – the majority of whom are women – continue to provide essential services in the most challenging of circumstances.

Decades of underinvestment, further exposed by the pandemic, has affected the accessibility, and safety of health and care services worldwide. Now is the time to stimulate sustainable economic and jobs growth in the care sector, as these are the green jobs of the future, with increasing numbers of people needing quality care and support as our population ages.

But to ensure the public has can access this, it is essential that there is investment to create decent and fair working conditions for our care workforces. 

Consider Tara, a community support worker who goes from home to home supporting over 65s, or those with long term medical conditions or disabilities. Tara is a solo mum of three school-aged children, and manages her time around parenting responsibilities, trying to work enough hours to keep a roof over their heads, pay the mortgage, and manage before and after school care.

Tara’s hours change from week to week as her guaranteed hours of work are kept low – for her, this means only 21 hours of work guaranteed per week even though she’d like more. Tara relies on additional child support payments coming in, otherwise it would be hard for her to survive week to week and cover the bills. When her employer needs Tara to do more hours, she is called in at short notice, but Tara is never given the certainty of those hours.

With petrol and car costs going up all the time, the equation becomes incredibly hard, and when you add on top of that the fact that community support workers often have no input into the way clients are cared for, Tara says it can be hard to feel good about the job.

Precariousness in the care sector is nothing new. Precariousness for women is certainly nothing new. Job security, regular hours and consistent entitlements are, arguably, an aberration of the post-Second World War period, enjoyed primarily by male – mostly white – workers in wealthier economies.

For women, stability and security has often been tied to a marital relationship. Insecure work remains racialised and gendered, with disproportionate impacts on women and people of colour. In New Zealand, women homecare workers had to take legal action even to be considered workers (Cashman v Central Regional Health Authority [1997]).

Successful litigation by unions ensures care workers are now paid for most of their work time, including travel between clients in the community, or for sleepovers. Previously care workers were paid only an allowance for being ‘on call’ when they were really at work. Most successful has been the Care and Support Pay Equity Settlement, which resulted in care workers achieving some of the biggest pay rises of their lives – it was ‘life changing’, as the instigator of the legal action and subsequent New Zealander of the Year, Kristine Bartlett, put it.

Yet the shifting of cost and risk to working people, alongside their declining share of employers’ profits, is perhaps most pointed in the case of the emerging ‘gig’ or ‘sharing’ economy, in which online platforms like Uber are used to connect individual workers to individual consumers. 

Platforms for care, such as MyCare, operate in New Zealand, and arrangements which allow the market to determine the rates for care work, and ultimately the regulation of it, could threaten the improvements made by care workers and their unions over the past decade. It’s one of the reasons drivers and their unions have taken a legal case against Uber to prove, as others have globally, that in fact, they are the employer of drivers.

Reforms to the health system in New Zealand are positive and well overdue, but at the forefront, investing in the 150,000 workers in community settings, including Kaupapa Māori, home and community support, and other essential residential care settings is key. Care workers in New Zealand ultimately are the care provided to our loved ones, and investment in their ongoing training and continued ability to do the job should be paramount.

This means ensuring the value of the pay equity settlement is maintained when it expires in June 2022. It means ensuring gig, contracting, and other individualised models of employment do not take over to unravel the positive and world-leading steps New Zealand has taken to train, regulate, and to think of care workers as real people. It means continuing the reforms – only partially completed – and which were recommended back in 2012 in the Caring Counts Report to create safe staffing levels in our residential care facilities.

Real people, like Tara, who cannot survive on hours that change every week or two, or without security of income, or in an environment where the psychosocial harm associated with the job is as real as the harassment she may face as an individualised worker in a private home.

Community care workers had to fight for their own safety during the initial Covid lockdown when initial PPE guidance suggested masks and gloves weren’t needed when going from home to home every day delivering personal care, despite public guidance that everyone should avoid visiting their elderly family and friends lest they be placed at risk. 

Workers had to keep standing up and taking action to win improvements throughout the pandemic. Just this past week, workers at Kaitaia’s only rest home – Claude Switzer – have gone on strike to try to win back their weekend rates and other benefits they stand to lose if they accept the terms their employer is proposing in a new collective agreement.

Care workers will continue to stand up in order to protect the wellbeing not only of those they care for, but also, for once, for themselves. But they shouldn’t have to do this alone. Let’s all stand beside them and call for investment in care and meet the demand to create the post-Covid care system our elders, vulnerable, and carers need.

Kirsty McCully is a health director at E tū.

Rest home workers strike: we can’t afford to lose pay or staff

Union members at a Northland rest home, who are desperate to avoid potentially losing pay and staff with proposed cuts to their pay and other collective rights, went on strike for an hour on Thursday.

Claud Switzer Memorial Trust, which runs the only rest home in Kaitaia, has proposed scrapping special pay allowances for health care assistants and domestic staff working weekend shifts, along with other benefits, as part of a new collective agreement.

Workers are currently being paid an additional $5 per hour to work on a weekend, and the employer wants to reduce this to just $12 extra in total for any weekend shift.

Other proposed changes include reducing penalty rates for overtime work, qualification allowances, and removing job security with a force majeure clause.

In a poster issued by management, the trust claims the future for the home is grim if workers don’t accept the new agreement – with around 20 residents needing to be moved and a 20% cut in staff due to lack of funds for a new building and upgrades.

E tū delegates say workers are struggling financially already without pay cuts and worry about the future.

“Our members are getting stressed out – they’re very unhappy,” says one.

“The weekend incentive rate management is trying to take away was the reason everyone was coming to work at that time – it was already a struggle to fill the weekend.”

Short staffing is already a huge issue in the aged care sector, and finding staff presents even more of a challenge during the Covid crisis, delegates say.

“We’re anticipating some change already with mandatory vaccinations coming in and having to take precautions – like wearing masks at work all day with summer coming – makes work more difficult for everyone.”

Delegates emphasise that the one-hour strike is a last resort to get management to listen.

“We all love our jobs – the hardest thing for us to do is to walk out. We’re walking out on human beings, not toilets and floors. It’s very disheartening for us.”

E tū organiser Annie Tothill says members have been bargaining since May and in mediation since August, in an effort to secure a fair collective agreement.

She estimates that without the weekend allowances, those workers working weekends as part of their 40 hour-week may miss out on up to $3,000 extra per year.

“There are quite a few workers who incorporate a Saturday or Sunday shift into their weeks – and some people only work weekends because of childcare responsibilities.”

The current $5 per hour is a reward for working unsociable hours, she says.

“The employer has said it can’t afford to pay workers the allowance and claims it pays more than other rest homes in the area,” Annie says.

“However, they won’t tell us which rest homes they’re referring to. From our own research across New Zealand rest homes, it would appear $5 per hour is average for workers who are working weekends as part of their normal 40-hour week.”

Annie says the employer is also trying to justify its position, claiming it needs the funds for building work and upgrades – or workers face losing residents and colleagues.

“Workers at Claud Switzer deserve to be fairly compensated for the work they do and to see their hard-won working rights upheld as they care for the most vulnerable in our communities.”

ENDS

For more information and comment:
Annie Tothill, 027 573 4934

National Executive representatives announced

The results are in for the 2021 National Executive elections.

We’re delighted to welcome back two long-serving members of the E tū whānau.

Angelique Kerr – Central region representative

Angelique served as the central region representative on E tū’s National Executive for the last three terms, including chair of the Audit and Risk Committee.

She works as at New Zealand’s Parliamentary Service in executive support and as a researcher.

“I want to continue to focus on ensuring that our union invests more in not only recruiting more members, but also training and empowering our union members to be union leaders in their workplace and communities.

“Our goals as a union are still focussed on growth, reach and capability. We need to continue to grow our union, even during these challenging times.”

Nikki Twine – Southern region representative

Nikki served as the southern region representative on E tū’s National Executive last term. She has been an E tū delegate for 20 years and also sits on the E tū Aviation Industry Council.

Nikki works as cabin crew for Mt Cook Airline.

“I’m driven by a strong belief in fairness for ‘all’, always being approachable, level-headed, and committed to my various E tū roles.

“2020/21 has seen many of us having to rethink, re-evaluate, and restructure our future. Our union continually needs to do the same to stay relevant and modern for our current and future membership without losing focus on our purpose and values: integrity, manaakitanga, aspiration, respect, and accountability.”

Results for other National Executive positions

All other National Executive roles were re-elected unopposed.

North Island vice president

Gadiel Asiata

South Island vice president

Ray Pilley

Northern region representative

Mischelle Moriarty

Returning officer

Christopher Gordon

All workers deserve the right to decent work

E tū stands alongside unions around the globe on World Day for Decent Work and continues to advocate for the right of workers everywhere to decent work.

Our definition of decent work is simple: it’s about a decent income, having secure work, a quality working environment, and for workers to have a voice in the workplace.

Currently, E tū is developing a Decent Work Charter and is hosting a Decent Work Summit in 2022 for Auckland-based member leaders.

New Zealand Post worker Misty Fergusson attended one of E tū’s first Decent Work trainings and knows what Decent Work means to her.

“It’s things like Fair Pay Agreements and the Living Wage. That’s a really big one – if I was getting paid over the Living Wage for my job, I’d be so much better off. It wouldn’t be as much of a struggle as it is now.

“It’s about giving everyone a fair fighting chance,” Misty says.

Misty’s Decent Work training also looked at the idea of social insurance – a guaranteed income for people who are made redundant, set at a much more liveable level than the current basic benefit.

Social insurance would be a good last resort to help families while they look for other employment – especially better employment – after losing their job, she says.

“It would mean you had so many better options, instead of MSD just shoving you into the first job they can get you, expecting you to stick it out on the minimum wage.”

E tū organiser Amy Hansen says no worker should be left behind in the fight for decent work.

“There’s so many aspects of jobs today that still don’t meet our criteria, and the criteria of organisations such as the International Labour Organisation, for what decent work involves.

“From seeing workers earning the minimum wage instead of the Living Wage, the rise of insecure, contract work, workplaces that present health and safety risks, and industries where workers don’t have the right to collectively bargain or don’t have industry standards – the need for decent work is more important than ever.”

Amy says events such as the planned E tū Job Summit will help to spread the word about decent work.

“We want workers to understand what decent work is and be part of the fight to create a better work future for themselves, their whānau, and communities.

“Decent work should be the right of all workers in Aotearoa New Zealand.”

ENDS