Author: E tū

Historic win in advancing equal pay for women

The “sun is shining” for caregiver and equal pay campaigner Kristine Bartlett and female workers everywhere in the wake of the Equal Pay Amendment Bill which passed late on Thursday night.

The amendment, which was passed at 11.59pm on July 23, will now make it easier for workers to raise a pay equity claim and help parties reach a settlement without going through the court system.

It’s welcome news for Kristine, a former rest home carer, who fought for years to secure the Care and Support Workers (Pay Equity) Settlement Agreement in 2017.

The settlement confirmed that the low rates of pay in the care and support sector were the result of systematic, gender-based discrimination.

Kristine, who is newly retired, says the new amendment “hits the nail on the head”.

“The sun is shining down on me today. Now those low-paid women workers can fight for their rights without going to court.

“The new law is now in place after eight years, after all the hard work from all the union members, supporters, and women’s coalition groups. We’ve finally done it in the year 2020.”

Kristine says although it took her awhile to understand the case she was fighting, when she did, she wondered why it hadn’t been done “donkey’s years ago”.

“I’ll never forget the first pay on my site and the look on the workers’ faces when they got that pay increase – their whole lives changed. Seeing these girls with their heads held high, saying, ‘We’re getting paid what we’re worth now.’”

E tū Assistant National Secretary Annie Newman says bill’s amendment is a fantastic example of how collective action is the way to make real change.

“This is an incredible achievement for all those, including Kristine, who have worked so hard to secure equitable, fair pay for women workers, after years of gender-based discrimination.”

ENDS

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


 

Campaign for mandatory staff-to-resident ratios in aged care homes

‘Deliver safe staffing for our seniors’ is the key message residents in rest homes and those working in the sector are urging the Government to commit to in the build-up to this year’s election.

With the support of Grey Power, E tū union and the New Zealand Nurses Organisation (NZNO) are launching an online open letter to Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern, on Tuesday to push for mandatory staffing levels to ensure a minimum ratio of carers to residents in the aged care sector.

Actions to support the nationwide campaign, #safestaffingnow, will also be taking place around the country in the coming weeks.

E tū delegate Sela Mulitalo says not having mandatory staffing requirements for rest homes and hospitals means poorer outcomes for residents and their carers too.

“For us, rushing around means that we do tend to miss a lot of things. Sometimes when we’re short-staffed, residents end up missing out on showers, for example,” Sela says.

“Residents feel rushed, like they’re not valued, but they don’t want to complain as they know it will fall back on us.”

Sela also says the needs of many residents are much more complex than they were when the guidelines were set down 15 years ago, meaning their care takes more time and staff need more training.

“This campaign will make a real different to those of us who work in this industry and the residents we look after.”

In 2010, the New Zealand Labour Party recommended making minimum staffing guidelines compulsory and referred to the sector as “desperate for a revolution”.

However, 10 years on, the recommendations are still not regulation, while the sector’s profit-driven model continues to drive chronic understaffing and dangerous working conditions for those working in the sector, and their vulnerable residents.

E tū Team Leader Jody Anderson says safe staffing is essential to providing respectful, high-quality, safe care.

“The health system hasn’t had the investment it needs, and as a result, we are now cutting corners to cut costs. COVID-19 has only re-emphasised the risks of unsafe practices in the sector, and the lack of staffing regulations,” she says.

“To make sure we rebuild our society better after COVID-19, we need to prioritise the wellbeing of our communities and our seniors, which means providing decent pay and adequate numbers of staff to facilitate the highest level of care for all.”

Share and sign the open letter at together.org.nz/safestaffingnow

#safestaffingnow launches at Woburn House, 57 Wai-iti Crescent, Lower Hutt on Tuesday 21 July at 3.30pm, where residents, aged care workers and special guests, including Labour MP Ginny Andersen and Green MP Jan Logie, will hold a street meeting outside a residential care facility.

E tū delegate Sela Mulitalo and Team Leader Jody Anderson will be available for comment at Woburn House.

ENDS

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

Worker-led Health and Safety programme for Māori, Pasefika, and migrants

E tū is making sure workers’ voices lead the way with the kick-off of a new health and safety programme for Māori, Pasefika, and migrant workers in manufacturing.

Funded jointly by the union and a Workplace Injury Prevention grant from ACC, E tū’s worker leadership programme addresses the high rate of workplace injuries among these groups in the sector.

The programme, Ngā Puna Whai Oranga, begins with a series of hui from August to November, followed by workplace workshops until the end of 2021.

A worker in the manufacturing industry for 18 years and the Women’s Committee Convenor on E tū’s National Executive, Wheeti Haenga says she’s really excited about the course and rapt that ACC are supporting the programme – a “big stride forward” for Māori, Pasefika, and migrant workers.

“We’ve never had a mentor for Māori or Pasefika in my workplace, and I think this programme will really help to bring our people – particularly our young people – together.”

E tū Food and Manufacturing Industry Council Convenor Gadiel Asiata says the programme has been “long-needed” in the manufacturing industry and is a valuable opportunity for workers to play a leading role in ensuring effective health and safety practices.

“We don’t want just a ‘tick-box’ exercise or flyer-on-a-noticeboard-type approach. Instead, we need processes that are championed by both employers and employees, with strong worker role models,” he says.

The two-year programme will start with around 150 workers, with room for more as the project expands.

After the hui conclude, onsite workshops will cover issues including cultural leadership, workplace risk-management tools, and overcoming barriers to leadership.

E tū Runanga Convenor Sharryn Barton says she hopes it will provide an opportunity for workers to connect with their cultural values in the workplace, given the high rates of injury for tāngata whenua.

“Health and safety is based in Manaakitanga, which means looking after people, your family, and the place you’re in. We need to recognise that we all have mana, and how well we look after others also determines our own wellbeing.”

Sharryn is grateful to ACC for its generous support of the programme. She says she hopes Ngā Puna Whai Oranga will inspire the same passion and commitment to improving conditions for manufacturing workers and their families as the late Helen Kelly achieved in the forestry and agricultural sectors.

ACC Implementation Manager, Workplace Safety and Levies, Virginia Burton-Konia saysthey are pleased E tū has been a successful grant recipient.

“We are delighted to be able to support a grant initiative that champions improved health and safety outcomes for Māori, Pasefika, and migrant workers.”

Ngā Puna Whai Oranga will link to existing health and safety programmes, such as WorkSafe’s Maruiti and Puataunofo, and will also be assessed by AUT’s Centre for Occupational Health and Safety Research.

E tū plans to continue Ngā Puna Whai Oranga until 2027.

For more information and comment:
Sharryn Barton, 027 462 4390

Union calls for Just Transition for workers as smelter to close

E tū union is calling for a ‘Just Transition’ for workers in the wake of Rio Tinto’s announcement it will be closing its smelter at Tiwai Point.

Around 1000 workers directly employed by the smelter will be affected, as well as at least a further estimated 1600 workers in the supply chain and local businesses.

Rio Tinto has given notice to terminate its contract with electricity supplier Meridian Energy, which ends in August 2021.

E tū Negotiation Specialist Joe Gallagher says the knock-on effect of the closure will be “huge”.

“This is a significant employer and this company is at the heart of its community. A closure will affect the entire supply chain, including other local suppliers,” he says.

“The smelter produces high grade aluminium and quality jobs for New Zealanders. It doesn’t make sense that as soon as it can’t get energy any cheaper, it abdicates responsibility for its workers.”

Rio Tinto needs to think about the legacy it wants to leave as a company, Joe says.

“To be clear, the closure will have an effect on the whole of Southland.”

Joe says the Government needs to consider a similar approach to that used in Taranaki with the Taranaki 2050 Roadmap, to ensure a Just Transition takes place.

“The Government should use the expertise, knowledge, and methodology that the Taranaki 2050 Roadmap partners have built in the region, but developing it at a much quicker pace for Southland with substantial investment early on.

“It has the opportunity post-COVID-19 to show a pathway forward for a proper, fair and just transition, including enabling workers to retrain or redeploy, while involving them, their communities, and iwi to rebuild better in the region.”

ENDS

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

Union calls for mandatory safe staffing after global report

E tū union supports a global call for better conditions for aged care workers to prevent future worker shortages, as highlighted in a recent OECD report.

The report, Who Cares? Attracting and Retaining Care Workers for the Elderly, draws attention to the poor pay and prospects of the profession, its physical and mental risks, and lack of training opportunities – all of which affect the length of time workers stay in the profession.

In New Zealand, the issue of safe staffing in aged care facilities is long-standing, as staff to resident ratios are not mandatory.

As shown in the OECD’s report, the median tenure estimated for staff across the sector in New Zealand is just 5 years.

An E tū delegate in a North Island aged care facility who wants to remain anonymous, says her experiences during COVID-19 have exacerbated the issues of an “already broken system”.

“The public would be horrified to know the everyday reality is not as it is depicted in the glossy brochures.

“Reality in my facility is a resident not missing just one shower, but not having a shower for almost three weeks. Reality is your loved one going hungry if there are not enough caregivers to help those that need assistance to eat,” she says.

“If I was a family of a resident, I would be really concerned that staffing levels are simply not safe.”

During COVID-19, staff were under even more pressure as carers resigned over the lack of PPE or took leave as they felt their family circumstances posed a risk of introducing the virus into the care home, she says.

She says unsafe staffing levels are not only detrimental to residents, but also have a knock-on effect on the sector as a whole.

“Unless working conditions improve, staff will leave the sector and residents will lose the well-trained, qualified teams who work with them day-to-day to deliver the most personal of care and support services to ensure their overall wellbeing.”

E tū Director Sam Jones says New Zealand’s staffing standards, which were set down in 2005, are out-of-date and desperately need to be reviewed to accommodate the complex needs of residents.

“With almost three-quarters of COVID-19 deaths in New Zealand connected to residential aged care facilities, the pandemic has only re-emphasised the urgency of the situation for workers in the aged care sector, as we’ve seen in examples such as the tragic events at Rosewood in Christchurch.”

Sam says addressing staffing levels will also help to combat a potential worker shortage in future.

“We’re calling the Government to set minimum staffing numbers to protect both residents and carers, to ensure we are rebuilding better in the wake of COVID-19. This means prioritising community health and revitalising the sector by providing strong development opportunities and pay that reflects the vital work of caring for our elderly.”

ENDS

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

Workers’ voices needed in future changes to PPE management

A union for care and support health workers says it is essential that workers’ voices are included in any changes to PPE provision during major health events in future.

On Wednesday, the Auditor General released an overview looking at the management of PPE in New Zealand during COVID-19.

E tū represents 15,000 workers in the health sector, including more than 10,000 in care and support roles such as home support, disability support and residential aged care.

E tū Director Kirsty McCully says workers knew early on there was a major systems failure in access to PPE.

“The experience of E tū members and other frontline healthcare workers varied massively, as outlined in an E tū survey of workers in April and this caused unnecessary stress and concern. Some workers waited weeks for access to PPE.”

Kirsty says workers shouldn’t have had to speak out so strongly in order for the Ministry to revise their initial advice on PPE usage.

“The current contracting system and multiple, layered split of services and tendering processes across DHBs was a major barrier to workers and clients accessing PPE. On top of this, the profit motive, particularly in the residential aged care sector, didn’t help.

“PPE for health care workers needed a much greater level of coordination and better central distribution by the Ministry of Health. However, as the Auditor General comments, the ‘size, scale, and speed of the pandemic required the Ministry to play a strong and decisive leadership role in a largely devolved sector’,” Kirsty says.

“Recommendation three of the report – reviewing how PPE clinical guidelines will be prepared or amended and consistently communicated during emergencies – is absolutely critical to us.

“Workers’ voices needed to have been included from the start in this and we will make sure that any changes following this report are co-designed by workers themselves.”

ENDS

For more information and comment:
Kirsty McCully, 027 204 6354

Air New Zealand proposes further wage cuts of $150 million

Air New Zealand staff are dismayed and angered at the company’s announcement to cut a further $150 million from their wage bill.

On Friday, the company’s Chief Executive Officer, Greg Foran, made the announcement to employees, who are still reeling from the redundancies which have already taken place.

E tū Head of Aviation Savage says with initial labour cost reductions of around $370 million, cuts of a further $150 million will only increase the pain for the airline’s workers.

“Thousands of workers have only got several weeks of work left before being made redundant.

“The company is heavily focused on saving money and is in danger of being blinded to the importance of treating both employees and customers with respect,” Savage says.

Savage says the real danger now is that the company may look to use the threat of outsourcing work to downgrade the remaining jobs.

“We will meet with union members as soon as possible to find out in detail how they want to respond. They have lost trust in senior management because of the way they were treated in the first round.

“The company is facing a big challenge, but now is not the time to repeat their past mistakes. To rebuild better, we need to keep these vital workers in jobs.”

ENDS

For more information and comment:
Savage, 027 590 0074
  
Rachel Mackintosh, 027 543 7943

‘Brutal’ proposed job cuts at Carter Holt Harvey

Workers are devastated at a restructure proposal which could see more than two-thirds of their team made redundant at Carter Holt Harvey’s remaining Northland timber plant.

In May, the company proposed to cut 68% of its production roles from 241 down to just 77 at their Laminated Veneer Lumber (LVL) plant at Marsden Point, as part of a plan to abandon export sales and focus on domestic supply only.

Despite LVL receiving around $2.2 million in wage subsidies in the first week of April, workers were forced to use, on average, two weeks of their annual leave during the Level 4 lockdown.

Some workers, who had little or no leave, now face a zero or negative leave balance and redundancy. The company also confirmed it has not ruled out complete closure of the plant.

E tū Industry Councillor Glen Chaplin visited Carter Holt Harvey workers last week and says they are completely demoralised by the proposed redundancy.

“Workers are really devastated and deflated. They don’t know what to do next and don’t necessarily see a path forward for getting other work,” Glen says.

“It’s decision which would potentially leave two-thirds of their workforce out of jobs in an area that’s already economically depressed.”

E tū organiser Annie Tothill says the timing of the proposed cuts is “brutal”.

“The harvesting of workers’ leave means some workers will have nothing left of their leave balance to help support a period of redundancy.

“It is in everyone’s best interest that the wage subsidy is used as intended – for the workers – and we urge Carter Holt Harvey to use the 12-week subsidy to cover the cost of reinstating all that leave to all their workers now.”

Annie says with a number of employers in manufacturing and infrastructure issuing restructure notices with potential redundancies, the Government needs to step in quickly for communities to have justice and to prevent a self-fulfilling cycle of job loss and economic downturn.

It also needs to create an accountable pathway for the timber manufacturing industry to thrive again, including exports, Annie says.

“To rebuild better, we need to keep and increase the number of decent jobs in New Zealand. The jobs at Carter Holt Harvey are good, sustainable manufacturing jobs that provide for hundreds of workers and their families, indeed the whole community.”

The company will announce their decision on 8 June.

ENDS

For more information and comment:
Annie Tothill 027 573 4934

Union calls for investigation into security guards injured in hospital attack

E tū is calling for a serious harm investigation into the case of two security guards who were injured when a staff member was attacked at Auckland’s Middlemore Hospital.

On 21 May, two security guards were stabbed with a pair of scissors when they intervened in the attack on a health care assistant.

One of the guards was stabbed in the hand, while the other received stab wounds to the back of the neck.

E tū delegate Gareth Liley is one of the guards who was stabbed and says it’s not the first time workers have been injured on the job.

“We have been warning the DHB of the risk of something like this happening. We want to go home safely to our families, just like everyone else does.

“What we need is the right support, personal protective equipment, staffing levels, and training, to ensure we can keep ourselves and our colleagues safe at work,” Gareth says.

E tū Director Sam Jones says the union has demanded an improvement in working conditions at Counties Manukau District Health Board and that WorkSafe be notified to conduct a serious harm investigation into the incident, with worker representation.

“It appears that despite the stabbings, because no one was in hospital overnight, they don’t see it as serious enough. It’s just unacceptable,” Sam says.

“Violence in the workplace cannot be treated by our health system like business as usual for our essential service workers.”

Bringing in standardised training, pay rates and hours, appropriate PPE, staffing levels and personal support at all DHBs would go a long way to helping the situation, Sam says.

These were all recommendations included in a March 2020 report on New Zealand’s hospital security services by the National Bipartite Action Group. It found that during a 12-month period, there were more than 5000 security incidents, including 230 reported assaults, logged across 13 of 20 DHBs.

Respondents also agreed the number and frequency of acts of aggression in hospitals was on the rise.

Sam says the review was an important piece of work and a good example of health unions and the DHBs working collaboratively to find solutions to an increasingly serious problem across our hospitals.

“We see the recommendations and their integration into the workplace as a crucial step in keeping our frontline health workers and patients safe.”

ENDS

For more information and comment:
Sam Jones 027 544 8563