Author: E tū

Lifewise workers continue strike action despite lockout threat

Lifewise homecare support workers are continuing their fight for better working conditions, even as they now face a possible lockout from their employer in response to their strike action and pickets.

From Saturday, members will be going ahead with more strike and picket action, outside the Lifewise offices in Mount Eden.

Lifewise, an Auckland-based organisation which is also part of the Methodist Church, has issued a lockout notice to all E tū Lifewise members.

For more than a year and a half, Lifewise members, who care for vulnerable Kiwis including seniors and those living with disability, have been trying to negotiate their first collective agreement with increased sick and bereavement leave.

Members also need fair guaranteed hours as they struggle to survive financially, with some on as little as nine guaranteed hours of work a fortnight.

E tū delegate Helen Taufa says the move to lockout members is “extreme”, but members will not back down.

“Instead of coming back to the bargaining table to negotiate and talk about things, [Lifewise] has gone to this extreme.

“For them to lockout all members – it’s harsh. We’re disappointed it’s come to that point,” she says.

Another member, who doesn’t wish to be named, says her family struggles to pay the bills even though she and her husband both work, and taking action is the only way to get the attention of Lifewise.

“Striking is the only way to get more money for my family,” she says.

Members of the Methodist church and family members of those receiving care have also strongly criticised the lockout move from Lifewise and are “deeply concerned” about the organisation’s treatment of members during the current dispute.

A church member says: “The Methodist Church has a strong culture of social justice and fairness. I am deeply ashamed of Lifewise’s behaviour.”

An E tū Director Kirsty McCully says in New Zealand, low-paid care workers shouldn’t have to go on strike to win hours they can survive on, or to know when they will be working from week to week.

“The employment model in homecare is broken, and these workers are bearing the brunt of it,” Kirsty says.

“Now, a ruthless employer, usually known for its good work in the community, is pushing its own workforce to the poverty line with a lockout which would see workers without income.

“However, the workers have said they are steadfast and will stick together until they achieve a fair deal at Lifewise.”

Lifewise members will be picketing on Saturday 23 January and Monday 25 January at 227 Mount Eden Road, Mount Eden from 7am-11am, and striking from Saturday to Monday.

ENDS

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

Lifewise strike: complaints about care quality, Methodist Church members concerned

Lifewise homecare workers continue their action to win a fair collective agreement which protects quality care at the Auckland-based homecare provider, taking strike action from 6am-9pm tomorrow (Wednesday) and picketing outside their employer’s premises at 227 Mount Eden Road from 7am until 11:30am.

Family members have started to complain to the Auckland District Health Board in support of the reasonable demands of the workers but are unhappy about the poor coordination of care from Lifewise, and the increased turnover of long serving employees due to their working environment and low hours.

In addition to client complaints, members of the Methodist Church, of which Lifewise is a part, have begun to express their concern that the homecare arm of The Lifewise Trust is failing its employees and clients.

“It’s a shame to me that Lifewise is not responding to the direct concerns of homecare workers about their low hours which keep them in poverty,” says an Auckland lay preacher who prefers to remain anonymous.

“It’s up to those of us in the church who feel strongly about the social justice principles to make the church step up and practice what it preaches,” she says.                                                                                                                                     

“I and a number of my colleagues will be taking this up within all the channels available to us – within our Synods, with our church ministers, and with our church representatives.”

E tū Director Kirsty McCully says that the homecare workers are taking their stand for themselves, but also for future generations of homecare workers.

“They can’t survive on the hours they’re receiving and the model at Lifewise is set up to keep employees in poverty, shouldering all the financial risk for the organisation,” she says.

ENDS

All are invited to the picket tomorrow at 227 Mount Eden Road from 7am until 11:30am. Members of the Methodist Church will be attending the picket.

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

E tū condemns arrests of Hong Kong democracy activists

E tū has joined New Zealand’s Foreign Affairs Minister, global unions and others in condemning the arrest this week of over 50 prominent Hong Kong pro-democracy activists.

Among those arrested was aviation worker Carol Ng, the chair of the Hong Kong Council of Trade Unions and former general secretary of the British Airways Hong Kong International Cabin Crew Association. Carol was released last night but the arrests are part of an ongoing and escalating intimidation of the democracy movement in Hong Kong.

E tū spokesperson Sam Huggard says the union extends its solidarity to Carol and other trade union and democracy activists.

“An attack on democracy is an attack on ordinary working people and communities and cannot be tolerated. We join with others in condemning this move and call on Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam to stop this intimidation immediately,” Sam says.

The detentions were made by local police, under the controversial National Security Law, for trying to “overthrow” the government by holding primary elections for pro-democracy candidates in last year’s postponed elections.

ENDS

For more information and comment:
Sam Huggard, 021 462 148

Homecare strike: not so ‘Happy New Year’ for Lifewise homecare workers

It’s not a very ‘Happy New Year’ for Lifewise homecare workers, who will go on strike for at least the next three full days unless the Lifewise Trust is prepared to settle a fair collective agreement. 

Homecare workers at Lifewise provide care and support to our elders and people with disabilities for the Auckland District Health Board (ADHB). The care workers have been in negotiations with their employer for more than a year and a half.

The workers want to see commitments to deal with their guaranteed hours of work, the lack of which is keeping some of them on the poverty line. They are also calling for improved leave, which their employer previously agreed to and then reneged on.

“Lifewise does a lot of good work in the community and they say they stand for social justice, but there’s a double standard at Lifewise when their own workforce of homecare workers can’t afford to live decent lives,” says care worker and E tū delegate Helen Taufa.

E tū Director Kirsty McCully says this is an issue of equity for the largely women and Pasifika workforce.

“These women cannot live on their incomes, and the inadequate conditions at Lifewise contribute to the disadvantage that these Pasifika women experience,” Kirsty says.

“It’s one example of a much wider problem. The Human Rights Commission has recently launched an inquiry into the pay gap for Pasifika women and E tū has invited the Equal Employment Opportunities Commissioner Saunoamaali’i Karanina Sumeo to meet with Lifewise homecare members and hear their experiences.

“It’s a shame to have to call out an organisation which otherwise does good work, but Lifewise, if it truly supports justice for the community, should get its own house in order first and stop contributing to these societal issues of poverty and inequality,” Kirsty says.

“Lifewise is a part of the Methodist church, and as such we feel it should be above disrespecting its homecare workforce in this way.”

Homecare workers will picket at the Lifewise Trust’s CBD offices at 385 Queen Street from 7:15-9:30am on Tuesday 5 January, and their strike action will continue in the following days. They will be joined by members of the Pasifika community, including Cook Island drummers.

ENDS

For more information and comment:
Kirsty McCully, 027 204 6354, [email protected]

New collective for aged care workers

E tū members at Radius, BUPA, and Summerset have voted to accept the new collective agreement recently negotiated with their employers.

The new collective agreement is also endorsed by NZNO members.

It delivers:

  • pay rises to household staff,
  • continues the focus on care staff moving up the scales,
  • slowly, but steadily, improves pay and conditions. 

As more New Zealanders come to understand the critical work aged care workers do, E tū will be pushing employers to continue to make improvements around training and safe staffing in the new year.

Lifewise homecare workers: still striking for better conditions and pay

Home support workers are hoping their strike action on Friday will lead to positive change in conditions and culture for both support workers and their clients at their Auckland-based provider Lifewise.

Last year, the organisation agreed to increase sick leave and bereavement leave in a proposed collective agreement but then went back on their word.

Workers have also asked for their guaranteed hours to be increased, as for many the low number of weekly hours means a constant financial struggle and daily disruption.

A home support worker, who wishes to remain anonymous, says she thinks there is definitely “hope for a better deal”.

“We need more sick leave than we are given, and my hours are terrible. I’m signed up for work each day from 8am until around 3pm, five days a week, but I often finish the day having only done around 2.5 hours.”

“We really want [Lifewise’s] respect and I hope they’ll take notice of the reasons behind all our strikes.”

Another member says she feels the organisation doesn’t care about their workers.

“The low number of guaranteed hours is a constant strain for workers – there are always fewer hours work than our availability to work,” she says.

Many members felt they couldn’t afford to risk taking time off work to strike for better conditions, she says.

“I know of one worker who had jobs booked at 1pm and 6pm, but then there’s a big gap in-between. We’re just robots running around from A to B – there’s no consideration given to how we’ll get there or the gaps in our workdays.”

A Director at E tū, Kirsty McCully, says home support workers are desperate for better working conditions.

“The financial stress of having so few guaranteed hours means workers are even considering leaving the sector,” she says.

“They feel deeply disrespected, ignored, and undervalued by the organisation they work for, which is really upsetting, considering the absolutely vital role they play in making sure families and their communities can continue to function every day.”

Kirsty says anyone could find themselves in the situation of needing home support at some point in their lives.

“How would we feel knowing our home support workers were struggling to survive themselves, or had to come to work sick because they didn’t have enough sick leave left not to put us at risk?

“This is about our elderly and some of our most vulnerable who really need assistance to keep living in their own homes.

“If anything, we urgently need to rebuild better in the face of COVID-19. Lifewise, with their dedicated workforce, has a chance to do this right now.”

Lifewise workers will strike and picket on Friday 18 December at Lifewise offices, including 227 Mount Eden Road, Mount Eden, from 7am to 11am.

ENDS

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

Lifewise home support workers put on pressure with continued strike action

Home support workers employed by Auckland-based provider Lifewise are continuing to strike for fair hours, more sick leave, and the terms of a much-needed collective agreement.

Workers have been on strike since Monday, in an effort to get the organisation to listen to their concerns and to action what was agreed to in bargaining sessions.

Before the COVID lockdown, Lifewise agreed to terms and conditions for a collective agreement, including more sick leave, which it then went back on, despite receiving full government funding for their homecare services during the heightened alert levels.

A home support worker and E tū member, who prefers not to be named, says being on the picket line on Monday has empowered workers and made them realise their issues are important.

“We want to keep going – we’re all on fire for what we need at Lifewise.

“I spoke to one of our homecare members on the picket line and she’s available for more than 30 hours of work but only gets around nine hours of work a week. For some of us, it’s a real struggle.

“We just can’t survive – we’re looking to leave the sector at a time when society needs home support workers the most.”

The key issues remain, including increasing the number and security of guaranteed hours and improving leave, such as sick leave.

Client representative Peter West says home support is a key service that has helped his elderly parents greatly.

“When my father had a stroke, he went into a private hospital for a while and he hated it – he just gave up the will to live,” Peter says.

“We brought him home for Christmas a year ago and he never went back [to the hospital], because we saw he came alive again. It’s because of the support of [Lifewise] people coming in and looking after their needs.”

E tū Director Kirsty McCully says the issues Lifewise workers are bringing to the table are significant.

“Having enough hours to live on from week to week and enough sick leave to keep clients safe – these should be no less than basic rights for our essential workers.”

“The things these workers are seeking, speak to the needs of support workers in this critical, but vastly undervalued, sector.

Kirsty says we all rely on our home support workforce to keep our growing numbers of elderly and vulnerable safe and well in their homes, rather than needing residential care or hospitalisation.

“It’s better for our elderly, and it’s better for society, but we need to ensure the workers can live on their incomes and are treated with respect.”

New Zealand Council of Trade Unions President Richard Wagstaff agrees: “It’s pretty simple – Lifewise need to show some respect to the excellent homecare workers they employ.”

Lifewise home support workers will strike and picket on Wednesday 16 December at Lifewise offices, including 227 Mount Eden Road from 7am to 11am. Strike notices have been issued until Friday 18 December.

ENDS

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

Lifewise workers strike for fair hours and sick leave

Workers at an Auckland home support provider will be striking this week, after talks to establish their first-ever collective agreement have failed.

On Monday, Lifewise workers will strike for certainty of hours, more sick leave, and respect from their employer, to be reflected in a collective agreement.

In bargaining sessions, the company agreed to increase sick and bereavement leave, as well as other benefits, but then went back on its word.

A Lifewise worker, who prefers not to be named, says the strike is about getting the collective agreement finalised, including the original terms and conditions Lifewise agreed to.

“Everybody’s just had enough of going through this – it’s been about a year and a half since we started bargaining the terms and conditions for our first collective.

“Now it’s about getting it on the table so we can get it finalised, and for the company to include the benefits they originally agreed to.”

Another worker, who remains anonymous, says the issue now is as much about the company’s integrity as the conditions themselves.

“It’s minimal, what we’re asking for. It’s frustrating for us as workers to have things like pay that is up and down, with no guarantee of hours and what we’ll earn every fortnight.

“The strike is a positive thing, so our voices are heard.”

E tū director Kirsty McCully says the organisation has a good reputation in the community, but workers are frustrated that this doesn’t match their experiences as employees.

“In a lengthy negotiation process, Lifewise has undermined bargaining by making offers and then withdrawing them,” she says.

“They are refusing to genuinely seek to resolve the core concern for workers – their ongoing security of hours and income. To these longstanding, dedicated homecare workers, many of whom have worked for Lifewise for 20 or 30 years, this has felt extremely disrespectful.”

Kirsty says sick leave is another key issue.

“Workers feel they don’t have enough sick leave to keep their clients safe, but these are essential frontline workers who put their clients first every day of the pandemic,” she says.

“Decent work means decent pay, hours, and enough sick leave, and we need to provide this for all workers, and not least of all, our essential workers.”

Lifewise workers will strike and picket on Monday 14December at Lifewise offices, including 227 Mount Eden Road, Mount Eden, from 7am to 11am. Strike notices have been issued until Friday 18 December.

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

Bagel workers get organised!

Workers at hip bagel joint Best Ugly Bagels, owned by celebrity chef Al Brown, have written to the employer announcing they are E tū members and want to negotiate a collective agreement.

Best Ugly Bagels employs around 90 staff across six outlets in Auckland and Wellington, and provides bagels to cafes and restaurants across the country.

Around half the Auckland-based workers are signed up to the union already, and they are taking their union message to their Best Ugly Bagel colleagues around the country.

Best Ugly Bagel worker and delegate Thomas Carlyle knows that being in the union will improve things at work.

“My friends and I really like working at Best Ugly Bagels – it’s a good working environment,” Thomas says.

“A bunch of us were chatting and felt that by getting together in the union, we could work with senior management to make it an even better place to work.”

Fellow worker and delegate Ines Mitgutsch agrees: “For us, sticking together with our workmates makes us feel more confident when we challenge things that don’t seem right.”

E tū organiser Mat Danaher says there are many issues in the hospitality industry that unions can help to fix.

“In general, the hospitality industry is plagued by low pay, long hours, and exploitation of thousands of workers,” Mat says.

“Just like any industry, hospitality workers organising collectively in their union will help them to secure their basic rights, and give them a platform to win the things that will really improve their work conditions, such as the Living Wage and Fair Pay Agreements.

“We’re looking forward to building a constructive relationship with Best Ugly Bagels and helping them to become leaders as responsible employers in the hospitality space, hopefully leading the way for improvements in the wider hospitality industry as well.”

ENDS

For more information and comment:
Mat Danaher, 021 336 519