Author: E tū

E tū welcomes Local Democracy Reporter scheme

E tū, the union for journalists, has welcomed the announcement today of a $1million pilot scheme to improve local news reporting.

The scheme, dubbed the Local Democracy Reporting Service, will see 8 journalists hired to report on publicly funded bodies such as councils, council committees, community boards, District Health Boards, council-owned enterprises, local trusts, and ports.

The scheme is an initiative of the Newspaper Publishers Association, together with RNZ and the government through the RNZ/NZ on Air Innovation Fund.

E tū Senior National Industrial Officer, Paul Tolich says it’s no secret that reporting on local issues has deteriorated sharply in recent years, as the number of journalists in newsrooms has declined.

“Local bodies and other publicly funded entities are responsible for billions of dollars in public funds and they must be accountable to the public. But as newsrooms have shrunk, there has been less scrutiny than ever of the politicians and officials who manage these often very substantial businesses,” says Paul.

“This scheme will help keep them accountable by ensuring greater scrutiny from the Fourth Estate.”

Paul says the union is also encouraged to see support across the media for the initiative.

“The reporters will be based in newspaper newsrooms, but they will be supplying stories to a wide range of other media.  It’s a great example of cooperation over an issue that has raised concerns across the industry.”

Paul also paid tribute to the government which set up the $6 million RNZ/NZ on Air Innovation Fund which is funding the1-year pilot.

“The fund was set up to support media content which is under-served and that’s certainly the case with our publicly elected and funded organisations. So, this is money that’s been wisely spent.”

ENDS

For more information, contact:

Paul Tolich E tū Senior Industrial Officer ph. 027 593 5595

E tū: Waikato Hospital assault tip of iceberg

E tū says the serious assault on a security guard at Waikato Hospital this week is the tip of the iceberg and it’s time to end the use of security contractors who don’t provide adequate training, support and safe staffing.

Today, our injured member is out of the hospital’s High Dependency Unit but has severe injuries and faces a long recovery.

E tū Industry Coordinator, Sam Jones says assault is a daily risk for hospital security guards who are routinely understaffed and frequently poorly trained.    

“Most guards are too afraid to speak publicly for fear of losing their jobs, but we know of at least six cases where security guards have suffered serious assaults in our hospitals,” says Sam.

“In one case a guard was knocked unconscious and wasn’t found for half an hour; another is still recovering months after an assault with a fire extinguisher and another was the target of a knife attack.”  

He says the DHBs are placing their faith in budget security firms, which are failing to keep workers safe.

“They have an obligation to provide a safe working environment. They might be saving money by using contractors, but our injured worker has paid a very high price for that.”

The Convenor of E tū’s Runanga, Sharryn Barton is a former security guard, who once worked at the secure unit at Henry Bennett, Waikato Hospital’s mental health unit.

She says wages and conditions for security guards are very poor, while training is sometimes non-existent, despite the risks.

“Most contractors are desperate to get the work, so they’ll overlook certain things to get the contract, and that puts the workers at risk,” she says.

“Many are Tangatawhenua, Pacific Islanders and other migrants and women – the easiest people to exploit because they’re desperate for the job.

“I think we need an investigation into the security industry including the practices and ethics of these contractors as well as the people who contract them, to make sure workers aren’t bearing unacceptable risks just to keep their jobs.”

Sharryn says the whole issue of procurement standards for services such as hospital security also needs to be investigated.

Sam says the union will also be pushing WorkSafe to designate security as a high-risk occupation – a view shared by the better security firms and the New Zealand Security Association.

ENDS

For more information, contact:

Sam Jones E tū Industry Coordinator ph. 027 544 8563

To contact Sharryn Barton please call Karen Gregory-Hunt ph. 022 269 1170.

Strike three at IDEA – and we’re out

When IDEA management walked out of mediation last week they left us with no option but to go ahead with l Monday’s strike from 3.30 to 4.30.

We had hoped they would have stayed and negotiated but they didn’t.  So now members are on strike again for one hour –  this Monday 20th  3.30 to 4.30

Monday’s strike will be the third over the last two months and there is further strike set for Friday  31st May from 8.30 am to  9.30 am.

We’ve already agreed to attend mediation before the 31st ,  but don’t yet know if IDEA will turn up, or how long they’ll stay.

PS This weekend KFC Carls Jnr and Pizza Hutt workers are on strike – so please get your takeaways somewhere else!

For more information contact 0800 1 UNION 0800186466

DHB, Allied Security fail assaulted security guard

E tū says Allied Security and the Waikato DHB failed in their duty to protect a hospital security guard who suffered serious injuries in an assault at Waikato Hospital early on Wednesday morning.

The guard was injured after she stepped in to protect nursing staff.

E tū Waikato senior organiser, Iriaka Rauhihi, who has visited the member, says she’s in a bad way in Waikato Hospital’s high-dependency unit, and the union is providing support for her and her family.

“She’s suffered severely, with multiple injuries to her head, face and body, and will require multiple surgeries. It’ll be a long road to recovery and we’re lucky we’re not dealing with a fatality,” she says.

Iriaka says the woman’s family is horrified by what’s happened to her.

“Obviously they are shattered and frightened. They want to know how come she was injured like this and why wasn’t she safe?”

The guard is employed by DHB security contractor, Allied Security which Iriaka says has consistently failed in its obligation to protect its security guards from harm.

She says under-staffing and working weeks in excess of 60 hours are common.

“Our members tell us they’re really tired, over-worked and fed-up. It’s about this employer not putting in the resources and staffing to keep people safe, especially in high-risk areas like Henry Bennett and the Emergency Department.”

Iriaka says Allied is aware of the problems, but won’t address them, raising the question of whether it should be working as a health sector contractor.

She says the Health Sector Relationships Agreement requires Allied to work constructively on issues such as safety, but “Allied doesn’t think it has to be part of it.”

Iriaka says the DHB also has to accept that it too has a duty to ensure a safe working environment.

“We’re calling on the DHB to intervene to ensure the contractor is keeping its workers safe, because at the moment the guards don’t feel safe. They feel overworked and at risk.

“This is a clear example of how unsuitable Allied is in terms of working in the health sector and the DHB needs to reconsider this contractor. Our member has suffered a horrific ordeal which could have been prevented.”

ENDS

For further information, contact:

Iriaka Rauhihi Senior E tū organiser, ph. 027 544 8697

E tū stands up for a ‘Just Transition’

Jacinda Ardern is correct when she says the world is moving on towards lower-carbon emissions and away from dependence on fossil fuels. There are internationally recognised carbon change targets and New Zealand’s coalition government is committed to aligning with those and being carbon-neutral (achieving net zero emission of carbon) by 2050.

The coalition government has established the Independent Commission for Climate Change to consider a pathway of transition towards that carbon-neutral economy and society.

Even Cameron Madgwick, the Chief Executive of the industry body, Petroleum Exploration and Production New Zealand accepts the world is moving towards lower-emission fuels.

Many E tū members feel a deep sense of responsibility to ensuring a sustainable planet for their grandchildren.

However, many E tū members work in carbon-linked jobs and those jobs are potentially affected. Our members work in mining, gas exploration and production, steel and aluminium making, electricity generation and aviation.

Many other members work in engineering and services supporting these operations.  E tū members in the West-Coast and Huntly mining operations, at NZ Aluminium and NZ Steel, Marsden Point and in the on and off-shore Taranaki oil fields support their local community economies with wages and conditions included in good union employment agreements.  

We stand up for those workers and their families and communities just as we do for all other 54,000 E tū members.

We know that Kiwi workers were the ones who paid the price for the economic and deregulatory transformation of the 1980s and 1990s; thrown on the scrap-head as their jobs disappeared or were replaced by low-wage, insecure work.  Our provincial regions in particular suffered.

We don’t stand for that.

E tū believes NZ should lead the way with a strategy of ‘Just-Transition’ in which we start planning now for the transition away from a carbon-based economy while ensuring that working people and their communities do not bear the brunt of this structural adjustment.

E tū is part of an international union movement, led by the peak global union organisation ITUC, that advocates for meaningful public and private sector strategies to ensure that good jobs and employment and income-related support is available as we transition out of carbon-linked jobs.

We call that a ‘Just Transition’ into new employment opportunities, and the work must start now on what is needed in such a Just Transition strategy. We can’t wait until it’s too late.  

We are not interested in some plan that puts a couple more case officers in regional WINZ offices.  We need a strategy for new high-value jobs and other forms of support that are  real, practical, relevant, resourced and sustainable. 

New Zealand can lead the way in this.  There are some promising examples overseas where unions have played an effective role in transitional strategies.  Germany and Scandinavia provide well known examples, but we can learn practical lessons from the transition from shale oil in Alberta, Canada and, closer to home, the framework of approach in the electricity sector in Australia.

We believe that the coalition government’s Climate Change Commission should have a central focus on employment-support related strategies and that this should start now.

That transitional pathway must also realistically consider the practical steps required to maintain our economic and employment capability serving our business and infrastructure as we work towards the target.

It is widely recognised, even by mainstream environmental groups, that natural gas is a lower emitter than thermal coal as a power source and that gas is a stepping-stone as we move away from thermal coal dependence.

Natural Gas is an important part of the strategy towards 2050.  It is needed to replace coal as the primary power source in industries like dairy production and as back-up for winter peaks in demand for energy production.  Gas is extensively used, for example, to power large boilers providing energy to manufacturing plant, hospitals, schools and hotels etc.

The amount of gas that is required during the transition to non-carbon and sustainable energy is not known at this point.  The coalition government’s Climate Change Commission should research and identify the amount of gas required at stages throughout the transition so that we can all have consensus on a clear plan.   

In New Zealand there is currently seven to ten years of permitted gas and oil exploration left. It is worth bearing that important role of gas in mind and allowing the Climate Change Commission to identify the real need.

Some will say that E tū is compromised in having a voice on climate change given we represent the interests of so many members in carbon-linked jobs.  We don’t shy away from that. It’s our job to stand up for working people. Miners played a key role in the struggles to establish a New Zealand union movement and a political voice for working people in parliament and we are really proud of that legacy.  Our members in mining, gas exploration and production live in communities that depend on their incomes.

But we understand and accept the challenges in looking to the future and we have a strong voice to offer on behalf of working people in the transformation to come.  Our bottom line is that we learn from recent history and ensure the interests of working people and their communities are paramount in that transformational journey.    

Bill Newson

National Secretary E tū

Chorus Downer decision welcome

E tū welcomes today’s announcement by Chorus that Downer has secured the maintenance contracts for Chorus’s copper and fibre network outside Auckland and Northland.

Downer’s win comes at the expense of contracting company, Broadspectrum which formerly shared the work, but has now lost its contracts.  

“Downer is a highly experienced infrastructure company and the decision is reassuring in terms of the quality of maintenance work we can expect on the network,” says E tū Industry Coordinator, Joe Gallagher.

However, he says the decision will affect about 450 Broadspectrum workers who are now without a job.

“A major contractor has lost its work which will mean major upheaval. People will have to reapply for jobs. We’ll be working with Broadspectrum and Downer to facilitate that process. Downer is a large company so there’s a lot of opportunity,” says Joe.

Meanwhile, he says the union is very disappointed that Chorus contractor, Visionstream has had its network maintenance contracts reconfirmed in Auckland and Northland.

“This is extremely disappointing given the findings of the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment investigation around Visionstream’s employment practices,” says Joe.

“This can only be seen as Chorus’s way of telling the Government to mind its own business.

“These networks are critical infrastructure and in our biggest city, its care remains with a company that has been shown to support a sub-contracting model which has led to exploitation and breaches of basic labour standards.

“We will continue to monitor Visionstream’s compliance with employment standards and support any workers who need our assistance in Auckland and Northland,” he says.

ENDS

For more information, contact;

Joe Gallagher E tū Industry Coordinator ph. 027 591 0015  

E tū: Summit kickstarts Just Transition debate

E tū is looking forward to attending the Just Transition Summit in New Plymouth which begins tomorrow.

The union has a team of eight regional delegates as well as senior officials and executive members attending the Summit, which follows months of work by the Taranaki community on a draft roadmap for the transition of the oil and gas region from a high-emissions to a low-emissions (net zero) economy.

E tū Senior Industrial Officer, Paul Tolich says the Summit will kick-start debate on this transformation, not just in Taranaki, but also nationwide.

“We welcome the initiative of the Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern in convening this Summit,” says Paul.  

“This is the beginning of the roadmap for the Taranaki region which will also serve as a pilot for the rest of the country.

“Oil and gas have provided a prosperous living for many people in Taranaki, and it is the source of many jobs for our members. But the region will face huge changes in the years ahead as industries reduce emissions.

“This is the start of a national response to the economic, social, cultural and environmental challenges we face over the coming decades, as we manage climate change,” he says.

Paul describes this as the biggest challenge to the nation since the radical restructuring of the 1980s and 90s.

“There was no plan then to deal with the fallout for working people and their communities, many of which were decimated by the changes,” says Paul.

“What happened then is at the root of much of the inequality we face today, and we are not prepared to have that happen again,” he says.  

“We need an economic development plan, so the change is managed to preserve quality, well paid jobs and healthy new industries. It is of the greatest importance that we work to ensure this transition is a success over the years and decades to come.”

ENDS

For more information, contact:

Paul Tolich E tū Senior Industrial Officer ph. 027 593 5595

Strike action by Access Community co-ordinators

OUR WORK MATTERS: Access Community health coordinators, contact centre workers and administrators to take industrial action

Workers who co-ordinate the home support of over 20,000 aged, injured and disabled people across New Zealand have voted to take industrial action in total frustration at their employer’s refusal to raise their wages.

Despite playing a vital role in the care and support of around 3.8 million visits including scheduling visits and matching support workers to vulnerable clients, many of these workers are paid at the minimum wage.

“The employer’s latest offer was rejected unanimously at meetings around the country, with 100% of voters in support of industrial action and 100% rejection of the employer’s offer”, said their unions, PSA and E tū – the Home Support unions for New Zealand.

“We are really being stretched thin. Understaffing means we’re working longer and longer hours, in a job where more and more people need support out there in the community and in their homes. We are dedicated to our jobs and our clients, but we cannot continue under the current conditions – something has to change, and soon” says care coordinator, Kirsty Rowe.

“Industrial action is a last resort for these workers, but they believe it is also necessary to ensure that quality of care is maintained for their clients,” says Melissa Woolley, PSA assistant national secretary.

“Access says they can’t raise wages because of a lack of funding. But this is a business owned by Green Cross Health, the group behind Unichem and Life Pharmacy, which reported a net profit of $8million in the six months to September 2018,” Ms Woolley says.

“Access is a major home support provider, delivering around 20% of all home and community support in New Zealand, but it hasn’t increased wages for coordinators in the same way that competitors have.”

“Support workers received a significant pay boost from the 2017 care and support pay equity settlement. But coordinators, admin, and contact centre workers have been left behind – and now earn less than the support workers they are responsible for coordinating,” says E tū Home Support coordinator Kirsty McCully.

“These workers are the glue that hold Home Support together in New Zealand. Their work matters, and they deserve to be respected and paid properly for the contribution they make,” Ms McCully says.

The PSA and E tū have agreed to urgent mediation with Access, but members are preparing to take unprecedented strike action for the week of the 13th unless mediations sees a significantly improved offer from the employer.

Key company info:

Access Community Health is a subsidiary business of Green Cross Health Limiting, a primary health care services company listed on the New Zealand Stock Exchange. As of March 2019, the group had a market capitalisation of $143 million. 

Green Cross operates across three segments:    

  • Pharmacies: 362 pharmacies under its Unichem and Life Pharmacy brands
  • Medical: 41 medical centres under the doctors brand
  • Community: home support services to 21,400 clients through Access Community Health, with 3.8 million home visits in 2018, employing 3,500 support workers and 166 community nurses.[1]

Net profit attributable to shareholders increased from $16.9 million in 2017 to $18.7 million in 2018, and the company issued more shares and paid more in dividends to its shareholders. [2]


[1] https://www.greencrosshealth.co.nz/investors/GXH_Mar19%20Investor_Update_Presentation.pdf?a=get&i=132

[2] http://nzx-prod-s7fsd7f98s.s3-website-ap-southeast-2.amazonaws.com/attachments/GXH/320080/281885.pdf

Mediation for IDEA Services dispute

IDEA Services E tū members head into mediation tomorrow with IDEA Services ahead of planned strike action next week.

A second round of industrial action by the members is scheduled to on Monday, 13 May, affecting 3000 IDEA Services E tū members nationwide.

That follows an overwhelming vote by union members for a series of separate strikes over the next two months to support bargaining claims for their collective agreement.

This would be the second round of industrial action, following a four-hour strike on 1 April.

The members, who provide residential and vocational care for the intellectually disabled, are striking for higher pay for senior service workers, weekend pay rates and action on unsafe staffing levels.

An employer attempt to claw back health and safety rights was a contributing factor in the 99% margin to strike, says E tū Industry Coordinator, Alastair Duncan.

ENDS

For more information, contact:

Alastair Duncan E tū Industry Coordinator ph. 027 245 6593