Author: E tū

E tū supports Greens’ call for FPAs

E tū, the union for cleaners and security guards, backs the Green Party’s call for Fair Pay Agreements and the Living Wage for contracted workers in the public sector.

COVID-19 has highlighted what cleaners and security guards already know — that their work is essential, hard, and risky, and their low pay means that they barely earn enough to make ends meet.

“Cleaners have been at the front line of defence during COVID-19, keeping other workplaces clean and safe, so essential services can operate,” says E tū Assistant national Secretary Annie Newman.

“As more workers and the public start to go back to their buildings and public spaces, everyone will want to know that everything is clean and sanitised. It will be a cleaner on near-minimum wage that will be doing this vital work. We cannot go back to accepting that low wages for them are good enough.”

Annie says the Living Wage and Fair Pay Agreements are a key part of E tū’s recently launched Rebuild Better campaign, and are exactly the kinds of transformational policies our economy needs as we recover from COVID-19.

“Two of the five key principles in our Rebuild Better campaign are workers’ wages leading the recovery; and, ending inequality. By paying the Living Wage and implementing Fair Pay Agreements, the Government will have a long-term impact on the wellbeing of working people and their communities.

“The Government should play a leadership role as we move out of this crisis and send a message that low wages are no longer acceptable in Aotearoa.  Implementing the Living Wage for its contracted cleaning and security workforces is an urgent and overdue first step. All three parties made a commitment to this at the last election but have so far failed to deliver.

“Fair Pay Agreements, for essential workers like cleaners and security guards will ensure that their work is valued into the future.  A Fair Pay Agreement that will set standards for proper wages and conditions across an industry would mean workers could live a decent life, with secure and safe jobs, no matter what cleaning or security company they work for. It will stop the race to the bottom as a result of the contracting model which has seen cleaners and security guard’s wages and conditions stuck at the bottom of the heap.”

ENDS

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

Aged care review “a slap in the face” for excluded workers

E tū members in aged care are appalled to learn that the Ministry of Health are charging on with a review into COVID-19 affected aged care facilities without participation from workers, their unions, or people who live in the residential aged care facilities and their families.

The review, quietly announced in a media release on Thursday, will be conducted by public health officials and employer representatives, but no worker, union, or client representatives are on the panel.

Aroha Carney, an aged care worker in Southland, says that workers have already proven to be the important voices in this discussion.

“During the early stages of the COVID-19 crisis and lockdown, PPE was being rationed in my facility very strictly, purely due to low supply. It was a shock to my colleagues and me as many of us felt we were at such high risk – and putting our families at risk as well,” Aroha says.

“It wasn’t until our union fought for our right to have free an unpoliced access to PPE that we started getting the changes that we need. It shows how important union members are in decision making.

Aroha and her colleagues think that many of the current practices around isolation continue to be sub-standard.

“When new residents arrive, while they may be isolated, the staff that care for them are still going between different residents and so that contact continues. We’ve also encountered problems with new and returning residents wandering around constantly.

These residents haven’t been effectively isolated at all, ultimately putting all other residents and staff at a much higher, unnecessary risk.

“The review needs workers like us properly involved so we can explain these experiences and work with others on the solutions. We’re the experts.”

E tū Director Sam Jones says that E tū has been calling for a proper review since the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis.

“Our members have been blowing the whistle on issues like PPE, staffing levels, and isolation practices throughout the pandemic. We’ve been calling for a proper review the whole time. With such limited scope and representation, this review is far from adequate,” Sam says.

“To keep workers, unions, and residents out of such an important review feels like a slap in the face.”

Sam says that the review will barely scratch the surface.

“This is basically just another form of self-regulation which has proven to not work across industries which will only produce what the providers and DHB’s allow it to. Having an independent resident and worker voice is the only thing that will lead to proper preventative measures to stop further clusters developing in residential aged care ensuring all workers and residents are protected. This is not the time for complacency.”

Sam says that E tū is asking the Ministry for an urgent “please explain” and to make sure there is adequate participation in the review.

“It’s not too late for them to fix this, both to improve the current review and to make sure workers voices are properly heard in any reviews and audits going forward.”

Sam says the issue highlights the importance of E tū’s recently launched Rebuild Better campaign, which outlines a way forward for keeping workers at the heart of the recovery.

“Two of the five key principles in our Rebuild Better campaign are prioritising community health and wellbeing, and workers involved in all decisions. Full worker, union, and client participation in a much wider review is the necessary approach.

ENDS

For more information and comment:
Sam Jones, 027 544 8563
Kirsty McCully, 027 204 6354

NZ Steel plant closure a blow for the Waiuku community

NZ Steel’s Pipe and Hollows Plant has told workers that they are undertaking a restructure which could see the end of their jobs at the plant for most workers.

The 60 workers affected would have to be redeployed elsewhere, or face having no job at all.

Delegate Lance Gush, a NZ Steel worker for 14 years, says this would be a blow to their families and the wider the Waiuku community.

“On Tuesday, even under the new Level 3 restrictions, the team embraced returning to work. We were happy to get back to some normality for ourselves and our families.

“We’re a team of 60 with people from five months to forty five years of experience at the plant. We were glad to be back this week, doing work we’re proud of, with assurance from management to push forward.

“By Thursday afternoon, we were confronted with a proposal that shook all of that completely.”

Lance is concerned about the impact the restructure will have on a community already bearing the brunt of the COVID-19 crisis.

“I have workmates with young families, who have already experienced the job loss of one parent. Now with this announcement, they’ve found both Mum and Dad’s employment balancing on a knife edge.”

Lance says that retaining their jobs isn’t just about the workers and their families but also the future of the New Zealand economy.

“There is an opportunity for the Government to invest in the future of our country and stimulate our economy by supporting and utilising our domestic products, resources and workforce.”

E tū Negotiation Specialist Joe Gallagher says there’s much more that we should be doing to support NZ steel and the wider manufacturing industry.

“From pit to port, it’s time to support local steel production,” Joe says.

“We need to be creating a level playing field so that New Zealand isn’t constantly undercut by cheap steel imports.

“We know the long and often distressing history of manufacturing here. Let’s beginning turning it all around.”

Joe says that the Government should take this opportunity to fix the problems in manufacturing, as part of rebuilding better after COVID-19.

“E tū has just launched a new campaign, Rebuild Better, outlining the way forward for New Zealand during and after the global pandemic.

“One of our key principles is the need to keep and create decent jobs. These workers at NZ Steel love their jobs, and they should really be protected by our industry planning.

“We will rebuild better, and we’ll rebuild with New Zealand made steel.”

ENDS

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

Our opportunity to Rebuild Better

Today E tū is launching the Rebuild Better campaign, in response to the COVID-19 crisis and recovery.

E tū National Secretary Bill Newson says it’s all about having workers at the heart of our recovery.

“The COVID-19 crisis has affected every worker in New Zealand. Our country has been lucky in some respects, but big changes lie ahead and E tū is determined we will rebuild better,” Bill says.

“We need a future that’s better for workers, better for the country and better for the next generation.”

The campaign is based on 5 key principles:

  • Prioritise community health and wellbeing
  • Workers’ wages leading the recovery
  • Keep and create decent jobs
  • Union members involved in all decisions
  • End inequality

“The campaign is focused not just on weathering the COVID-19 storm, but also creating a future for workers that’s better than the path we were on before,” Bill says.

“Community health and wellbeing should always be a priority. This means keeping people safe from COVID-19 in the immediate term, but we also need a longer term focus on improving health and wellbeing beyond the crisis.

“Workers’ wages need to lead the recovery. We don’t want any workers out of pocket because of COVID-19. We know that lower waged workers spend more of their hard-earned cash in the local economy than others do, so making sure workers are well paid is part of the necessary economic stimulus – as well as the morally right thing to do.

“We need to keep and create decent jobs. High wage, secure, and safe jobs. Our country should be doing a lot more to advance our manufacturing industries, our high-tech economy, and our green energy sector. There’s no point in a COVID-19 recovery that isn’t both socially and environmentally sustainable.

“Union members are worker experts, so they need to be involved in all decisions. That means representation at the top tables of industry and government. We need to be equal partners in decision making, both because of the expertise that working people have, and to ensure fair outcomes.

“Finally, we remain focussed on ending inequality. Our lowest paid workers simply cannot bear the full brunt of the economic downturn. We’re fighting for things like Fair Pay Agreements, the Living Wage, and social procurement to address these historic injustices.”

Please visit the new website www.rebuildbetter.nz to learn more.

ENDS

For more info or comment:
Bill Newson, 027 538 4246

IDEA Services: leave payments update

YOUR RIGHTS – COVID-19 LEAVE PAYMENTS DISRUPTIONS AND DECLARATIONS

If you have been unable to work because you are following Ministry of Health guidelines to keep clients, your families and yourself safe, you will have just been notified by IDEA Services that from the 23 of April you will no longer continue to be paid your full wage.

IDEA have done this despite their commitment to you to provide you guaranteed hours and their commitment to the government to make best endeavour to pay at least 80% of your wage. Instead, they are dropping your wage to the amounts paid for by the government subsidy.

To add to this, you are now being asked by IDEA to complete a declaration/application for special leave including providing medical information on yourself or your vulnerable family members.

Below are some frequently asked questions.

Does the government subsidy mean IDEA doesn’t have to pay your wages?

  • No, the government subsidies for business in no way means the employer does not continue to have separate obligations to employees under employment law and their employment agreement.
  • Employment laws and regulations (subject to one small exception) have not changed due to COVID-19. These laws and obligations continue to apply.
  • This also means the employer cannot change or reduce rates of pay, hours of work, or other terms of employment without discussion and agreement with employees, regardless of whether the employer seeks the wage subsidy.
  • Employers accessing wage subsidies does not mean they do not have to continue to meet their legal and contractual obligations to workers and the union.

What are your rights in the view of E tū?

  • IDEA cannot reduce your guaranteed hours without your agreement or following a proper process which is covered in clause 16 of your collective agreement.
  • If you are available and willing to work your guaranteed hours, then they must be provided and paid. If IDEA can’t provide you a safe work environment and you are at home following government pandemic rules than you should be paid your normal wage.
  • You do not have to agree to be paid leave and can’t be forced to use annual leave.
  • You should not be forced back to work through financial hardship and IDEA should be paying you special leave.
  • You do not need to provide your or your family members’ medical information on a WINZ declaration. You may be required to discuss your vulnerability to a professional to undertake a risk assessment to determine whether its safe to work.

What is the union’s advice?

  • Do not agree to be paid less than your normal earnings.
  • Keep a record of what you lose.
  • You can use annual leave to top up this payment if you need the money, but write on the form that you feel forced to use leave to be able to survive and it should be reimbursed later.
  • Tick the box on the declaration applicable to your circumstances but you do not need to fill in the text box with detailed medical information, especially if you have been deemed to be at risk by your GP.
  • Organise so your voice is heard loud and clear.

Does IDEA have a moral obligation to pay as well as a legal one?

So far IDEA have continued to pay you at 100% of your wage which is great. They have done this knowing that the Ministry of Health (MoH) has said they will cover this cost to enable you to remain employed and your position to be back filled with other staff.

The MoH is doing a template for health employers to claim back the money for the back filling of staff now. The MoH expect more people to return to work at Level 3, however not everyone will be safe to return and E tū expects IDEA will continue to be able to apply for the top up for back filling staff meaning they would not be out of pocket.

So why cut your pay now?

Ralph Jones stated that this was because IHC/IDEA Services had not been able to secure a guarantee from MoH that the COVID-19 wages costs would be guaranteed. Mr Jones also stated that the MoH had advised IHC/IDEA Services apply for the COVID-19 leave subsidy.

Here is E tū’s understanding of the facts:

  1. IHC/IDEA Services has incurred significant wages costs covering the wages of those workers who were not permitted to attend the workplace for COVID-19 related reasons.
  2. IHC/IDEA Services could have applied for the various versions of the COVID-19 leave subsidies from 18 March 2020.
  3. On 14 April the MoH advised all Disability Sector employers that if there is any risk of them not being able to keep going through the COVID crisis and beyond then they only have to ask for assistance and the MoH will be there to provide that assistance.
  4. On Monday 20 April the MoH advised disability sector employers/providers that a template document was being prepared for them to complete to claim the COVID-19 back filling wages costs and other COVID-19 related costs, and that the funding would be available.
  5. What is required is that IHC complete a declaration which names you and confirms that you have been advised that you are being named in their application for a wages subsidy for you. The IHC Group is also required to declare to MSD that they are using their “best endeavours” to pay you at least 80% of your wages. The advice to all employers who apply for this funding is that they are NOT relieved of their obligations to pay you your wages and they are not permitted to compel you to use other leave balances.
  6. We have raised our concerns with IDEA and will continue to insist that you are all paid 100% of your wages without having to use other leave balances.
  7. E tū acknowledges that the MoH has been frustratingly slow to address the additional costs that essential service employers have had to face in this crisis. E tū has kept this item on the MoH agenda and will stand with the disability sector employers to keep this issue at the forefront of discussions with the MoH and government.  

In the meantime we expect IDEA to keep paying you and you should too!

YOU DO NOT HAVE TO AGREE TO WAGE REDUCTIONS OR TO USE YOUR LEAVE BALANCES. E TŪ IS HERE TO SUPPORT YOU – CONTACT US FOR ASSISTANCE IF YOU NEED TO. 0800 1 UNION (0800 186 466) or [email protected]

Home support workers: half without adequate PPE

Half of New Zealand’s home support workers lack adequate personal protective equipment (PPE), according to initial results from an E tū survey which opened yesterday afternoon.

Home support worker Tarsh Dixon says the union launched the survey after the Government’s announced a rapid stocktake of PPE distribution midday yesterday.

The initial results are being released to coincide with a new international PPE campaign for support workers starting today.

Tarsh, an E tū national home support delegate, says the initial results are distressing.

“Immunosuppressed clients undergoing cancer treatment shouldn’t have to wait for another government report before their support workers get adequate PPE,” she says.

“Frontline staff know our PPE distribution system is broken; the Government needs to start listening to us and act today.”

The survey shows staff without adequate gear often have none not all, or employers are rationing the small amount available, she says.

“Some support workers have only had two masks since the lockdown started. One respondent just got her first protective equipment after five weeks of complaints. It was a single box of gloves.”

Survey feedback suggests clients are declining care because the lack of PPE makes them feel unsafe.

“In some cases, clients are being told to buy protective equipment if they are concerned their support workers have none.”

Initial results show workers are buying PPE, which Tarsh says is “an unfair expectation on low-paid workers”.

INTERNATIONAL CAMPAIGN LAUNCHED IN NEW ZEALAND

Unions are launching an international PPE campaign “#ProtectHomecareWorkers” today, starting in New Zealand.

“Our Government deserves international recognition for its lockdown response,” Tarsh says.

“But our lack of PPE and poor distribution is part of a global problem and the system has let us down.

“Home support workers across the world face the same problem, and New Zealand has an opportunity to show the world how to respect our support workers,” she says.

Tarsh says the campaign demands are adequate PPE, correct payment, and respect.

“This is the minimum we need to ensure we can provide safe quality care to the world’s vulnerable people.”

ENDS
For more info and comment, contact Kirsty McCully, E tū Director, 027 204 6354.
Tarsh Dixon, home support delegate, is available for comment today. Please arrange with Kirsty.

Air NZ chooses irreparable damage to workplace culture

E tū says that Air New Zealand’s effort to save money in an extreme response to the COVID-19 is doing irreparable damage to their workplace culture.

Air New Zealand’s latest response to the crisis includes shutting down the RML Nelson maintenance facility, refusing to bring back work currently being done in Singapore, and keeping workers and the public in the dark about worker exposure to the virus.

The proposal to close the Nelson maintenance facility, with the potential loss of up to 100 jobs, has been under consideration by Air New Zealand since mid-2019. They are using the COVID-19 situation to go ahead with a closure despite regional flying being the least affected of all their activities.

One affected member, who wishes to remain anonymous, says that they were devastated when they heard the news.

“I had to take any plans I had made for the next 10 years and throw them in the rubbish. I took a considerable pay cut moving here, just so I could be a part of this great community.

“It’s not just the employees this affects. It’s also the partners and children that will all be torn from this community. I bought a house here, met my partner here, and have become a part of this community. I planned on spending the rest of my days walking on the beaches and in the forests of this great place. Now, I will be forced to chase work in bigger cities.”

Another anonymous member says that it is a big blow to the Nelson community.

“RML was set up by Air New Zealand to provide a more effective model of maintaining turboprop aircraft, which contributed to lower maintenance costs overall for the company. The growth of RML from Air Nelson has seen over 100 jobs being established in Nelson.

“It was a surprise to me that Air New Zealand have seemed to take a 180 turn on the reasons RML was set up. I am left feeling like Air New Zealand are trying to transfer the impact the virus is having in Christchurch to RML. It feels like we are being asked to accept this proposal under duress, and that it really has not been thought through.”

Another member said the timing of the decision was unfair.

“This will have a devastating effect on me and my family because there is no prospect of finding other work in Nelson. It is being done with very little notice, in a time of lock down due to COVID-19. I feel it is totally unfair to make these moves and make people redundant while the company takes government support.”

E tū aviation negotiation specialist, Paul Graham, says E tū challenged Air New Zealand in mid-March to support the regions and resist the temptation to close down regional operations.

“We called for them to keep RML heavy maintenance in Nelson open. They have ignored this call. They are increasingly blind to the human costs of their financial decisions,” Paul says.

“Air New Zealand are losing the respect of their employees and losing their status as a desired employer. Their behaviour towards their employees is increasingly heavy-handed.

“Air New Zealand’s reputation as a great carrier and good employer is one of the main reasons for their success. It seems they are choosing to throw that all away to maintain their cash reserves while they slash and burn jobs. This is despite receiving the wage subsidy and a substantial loan from the Government.

“Kiwis don’t want our national carrier behaving so badly. Our message to the company: do the right thing.”

E tū Head of Aviation, Savage, added that the secrecy around COVID-19 infections in the Air New Zealand workforce demonstrated their new approach.

“Their brand is more important than safety at the moment. There’s no transparency, little accountability, and they are quickly losing the faith of staff and the wider community.”

ENDS

For more info or comment:
Paul Graham, 027 204 6337
Savage, 027 590 0074

Disgust as OCS stops Vic Uni from topping up cleaner wages

OCS Limited NZ, the contractor for cleaning services at Victoria University, has refused an offer from the university to top up the wages of cleaners who are at home in lockdown.

University cleaners are doing their part for the community and staying home, with many only being paid 80% of their wages during the Alert Level 4 period. They earn just above the minimum wage, and paying bills and supporting families on these very low wages is already very hard. 

Victoria University cleaner and E tū delegate Henok Gebre says the news is disheartening for all of his workmates.

“Most of my colleagues are fathers and mothers who are the sole earners of their households and were already struggling to get by on minimum wage,” Henok says.

You can understand why learning that they are going to only earn 80% of their wages was really terrible news.

“With government subsidies factored in, OCS probably could have afforded to pay us 100% as it is. If you add in the university’s offer, they would have been more than capable of paying us 100%.

“It’s not too late – we’re urging OCS to reconsider their position and do the right thing.”

E tū organiser Yvette Taylor says the company’s behaviour is appalling.

“As the country went into Alert Level 4 lockdown, Victoria University decided to do the decent and fair thing by offering funding to OCS to go towards paying the cleaners.  They know that their cleaners have it tough as it is,” Yvette says.

“However, OCS refused, citing some ambiguous reasons that don’t make any sense. It is totally ridiculous that they won’t accept the money and pass it on”.

“The money is there, and the workers desperately need it. A 20% pay cut, when you’re on the minimum wage is devastating. So a responsible employer would welcome this opportunity with open arms. To reject it is simply disgusting.”

Marlon Drake, student and former VUWSA President says the Victoria University student community support the cleaners.

“Cleaners aren’t just staff at university, they’re a part of our community. They’re the people keeping our campus safe. Every single one of our students knows this.

“We’re supposed to be kind to each other. The students know this, and clearly the university does too. Now is the time for OCS to do right by the cleaners, anything less is unacceptable.”

ENDS

For more information and comment:
Yvette Taylor, 027 585 6120

Aged care funding “inadequate and lacks accountability”

Yesterday’s aged care funding boost announced to deal with COVID-19 will be a band aid solution unless safe staffing and comprehensive regulation are a part of the solution.

It is unclear what outcomes the Ministry of Health expect from the funding boost. The additional $26 million for residential aged care providers is part of the Government’s COVID-19 response after many on-going issues have become urgent in aged care following a series of resident deaths. These issues include understaffing and inadequate provision of personal protective equipment (PPE).

E tū member and residential aged care worker, Mary (not her real name), is really worried about the staffing levels at her facility.

“I do my best to care for them properly – my residents are an extension of my family. I’ve been caring for them for years. I have worked as a caregiver for nine years and over that time you get to really know and care for the residents,” Mary says.

“It is hard now to realise they are most at risk and that we may see some of them die as a result of COVID-19. Their families have entrusted them to us because they believe they will be in safe hands, but we don’t always have the staff numbers or safety processes to keep them safe.

“A number of staff have two jobs, and some have left my workplace entirely because they are paid and treated better during COVID-19 at a different job. This has left us short staffed. I completed 12-hour nightshift the another day because they were short staffed, but I can’t keep doing that.

Mary says the PPE issues need to be sorted immediately.

“PPE needs to be available and to be easily accessible – we deserve to feel safe at work. We need to feel safe and know we are able to keep residents we care for safe as well.”

E tū Director Sam Jones says the problems have been getting worse over time.

“In the last 10 – 15 years it’s become particularly bad,” Sam says.

“Chief amongst these problems is that staffing guidelines are not adequate in the sector. The only direction to providers are voluntary guidelines last issued in 2005 and the absolute minimums specified in the provider contracts with the DHBs and are long overdue for updating.

“Cleaning, laundry, and kitchen staff for example, remain on close to minimum wage levels for the important role they play in ensuring the safety and care outcomes in these facilities. Members can see that deaths of those they care for could be one of the consequences of years of understaffing and underfunding.”

Many of the issues were well documented in the 2019 report ‘In Safe Hands?’.

Union members are quoted in that report, pointing out the long-standing issues.

“Staff feel like they are providing a below par service. We work extra time for free and go home exhausted, some days crying as we didn’t manage to do everything,” one worker reported.

E tū is calling for:

  • the Ministry of Health PPE guidelines to be updated and clarified now with adequate supply to the workers.
  • an acknowledgement of the long-standing issues by the Government.
  • inspections and DHB audits of aged care facilities that include full worker participation.
  • a full enquiry into staffing beyond COVID-19 to ensure mandatory safe staffing. This could be done by expanding the scope of the Ombudsmen’s pending investigation into secure facilities.

ENDS

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