Category: Engineering, Infrastructure, and Extractions

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

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

E tū and the Just Transition Summit

Eventually, all of us will have to confront the fact we have to act on climate change. In Taranaki, they’re doing that sooner than most. For months, the community has been encouraged to take part in hui to debate what a pathway to a low-emissions economy might look like.

It’s a radical change and no easy ask in a province prosperous from oil and gas, and another key carbon emitter, dairying. Agricultural chemical production is a big local industry. These industries under-pin thousands of jobs and hundreds of firms. 

Taranaki is the pilot for how the rest of the country responds as we re-gear our economy to reduce emissions and combat global warming.

The Just Transition Summit in New Plymouth this week will explore how we get from here to there, built around the korero all over Taranaki this year on practical responses to this challenge. E tū has been proud to be a part of this, with our delegates joining other workers, local businesses, councils, iwi and the wider community in this work, which must be among the most comprehensive consultation exercises in recent times. But then there’s a lot at stake.

The pathway mapped out for Taranaki will be the pilot that guides similar initiatives nationally. It will be a bellwether for how the country manages the change from a carbon-driven to a carbon-neutral economy by 2050.

E tū has an 8-strong team of delegates attending and despite the huge challenges, the delegates say the mood in Taranaki is positive.

“The local community is embracing the Just Transition message,” says Toni Kelsen, E tū delegate and energy consultant. “Oil and gas have been good to Taranaki. It’s been good in terms of work. Now it’s about providing a good future for our kids. It’s about my grandchildren, that’s where I’m coming from.”

Tyrell Crean, local delegate and Central Region Representative for E tū’s Youth Network, also reports a positive mood in the pre-Summit workshops and community hui: “They all want change to happen and it’s good to see all the positivity. There are young people involved and there will be heaps of support for this to continue. There are a lot of good ideas about what should change.

“People are thinking about the future,” he says. “As mentors, we’re the ones who have to drive it for the next generation. I want it to turn out well for my kids.”

Protecting the future and securing decent work in their region are key priorities for our delegates. Changing energy use and farming practices mean the future of work is about new kinds of jobs and constant upskilling.

Tyrell Crean says there’s been a lot of exciting ideas ahead of the Summit about improving access to the on-the-job experience, education and training that people will need to adapt to the new world of work.

He says one workshop explored the idea of companies offering workers the chance to try a new job and learn a new skill. He says inter-linked companies was one idea for expanding job options and experience. But he says there are obstacles to that kind of flexibility and cost remains a huge barrier.

“Why not have a system where instead of one job, you can work in a different part of the company; where you can switch over, get trained and not lose money. Because at the moment if you want a new pathway, your job only pays a training wage and that stops people. With training and education, it comes down to money and if it’s affordable, people will do it.”

Toni, Tyrell and Balance Nutrients delegate, Sean Hindson also support better public transport.  It’s an obvious way to cut traffic but Sean says a good network would link the wealthy job-rich hubs of Taranaki with other parts of the region, so people had access to good jobs and training. He says it’s about reducing inequality.

“If you had decent infrastructure to allow youth and people in their 20s and 30s to commute around, and to connect those hubs of learning by trains, you could see the wealth shared around. So, I would say dream big.”

Indeed, some big ideas and cutting-edge science have emerged during the workshops ahead of the Summit. Sean says the debate has unlocked people’s imaginations. “This Just Transition thing, I love it. I love being part of it,” he says.

Sean acknowledges there will be many sceptics about what the Summit will achieve.

“People are always wary about that – you see a lot of sitting down and talking, people just chewing the fat. But I’m looking forward to some substance coming out of that. For now, we’re still in a talking phase but I’d be interested to see some solid data come out. I’m hoping all of our work will be taken on board.

“Wouldn’t it be amazing if we were trail-blazers globally and people took this and ran with it?

 “It’d be brilliant.”

Foundry workers out in the cold

Workers employed by MFL Ltd (formerly Masport Foundry) in Auckland returned from their holiday this week to find they had no jobs, no wages, and no holiday pay.

They were sent on their annual Christmas shut-down early and were told that they would be returning to work on 7 January. However, MFL Ltd went into receivership on 18 December.

About 90 workers with specialised skills are now going into 2019 without secure employment.

Pati Pele, who has worked at the foundry for nearly 30 years, is “pretty bummed out” that the company has treated their loyal workers like this.

“We committed our loyalty to this company. To be sent on holiday without knowing this was going to happen, and in fact being told we would be back to work this month, made this a big shock and really upsetting, especially at this time of year,” Pati says.

Debashish Mukherjee shares that sentiment. “I am absolutely gutted by what has happened and that there was no inkling that this was coming,” he says.

“This has been very hard for me and my family as we are basically out of money. As a 62-year-old, I am worried that I may not be able to find work as a skilled machine operator.”

Matthew Mateariki, a maintenance fitter who did his apprenticeship with the company and has worked there for 17 years, worries about his colleagues’ job prospects.

“I’m feeling lucky as I have a trade, but I’m gutted for my workmates as they are skilled foundrymen whose specialised skills may now be redundant,” he says.

“I am absolutely disgusted at the way me and my fellow workers, most of who have been there for a long time, were treated.”

Ahlene McKee, E tū’s Northern Region Director of Organising, says that the union is doing everything possible to get the workers through this difficult period.

“We’re helping the workers file claims with the receiver, prepare CVs, and we’ve brought in WINZ consultants to explain what entitlements the workers may be able to get,” Ahlene says.

“Some companies have already been in touch offering jobs to these workers, which is encouraging. However, there are a lot more jobs needed – and fast.

“These are hardworking and skilled machine operators, fitters, fettlers, electricians, patternmakers, furnace operators, gantry crane operators, and dispatch workers. We hope that more employers out there will come forward with job offers.

“Anyone can see that these workers have been treated appallingly and deserve a fair go.”

ENDS

Affected workers may be available for media interviews. For more information and comment, please contact Ahlene McKee on 027 591 0065.

E tū appalled by sudden closure of Masport

E tū says the union and its members at MFL Precision Foundries in Mt Wellington have been blind-sided by the receivership of the company.

A manager yesterday notified the union of the receivership by phone, but so far there is no official confirmation, says Ron Angel, E tū Industry Coordinator.

Meanwhile, he says the firm’s workers have been sent on leave for the Christmas break without being told about the receivership, which is unacceptable.

“We are deeply appalled that the employer has done this, knowing full well this was coming and that their workers didn’t know. Nor did the union,” says Ron.

“We understood the company had some financial challenges, but this has come as a complete surprise.

“We are now working hard to contact our members, to let them know what is happening, and to ensure they know their rights and entitlements.”

The union is also seeking an urgent meeting with the receiver.

At its height, when it produced the famous Masport lawn mower, the foundry employed up to 400 workers.

“This is a pretty sad end to a company which has traded for about 100 years,” says Ron.

“It’s another example of a company which has been down-sizing over time and now it looks like the end has come. That is always very hard news for those involved and especially just before Christmas.”

ENDS

For more information, contact:

Ron Angel E tū Industry Coordinator ph. 027 591 0055

Job losses at RCR Dannevirke a blow to workers

Workers at RCR Energy in Dannevirke are reeling after the company announced pending job losses related to its Australian parent company being put into administration.

The company, which is a boiler manufacturer, told workers this morning it expects 20 staff will lose their jobs as it works to keep the plant afloat.

RCR in Dannevirke employs 49 workers, including management and support roles.

“This is a massive blow for the workers and the small community of Dannevirke,” says E tū Lead Organiser Laurel Reid.

“A lot of the staff have been working there a long time and it will be next to impossible to find work in the town with the skills these workers have,” she says.

Laurel says the proposed redundancies are another blow to local manufacturing, which has seen a steady loss of quality manufacturing jobs in recent years.

“These workers are qualified tradesmen and labourers, and highly skilled in heavy fabrication but it’s more than likely they will have to move towns to find a new job.

“It’s devastating news at a time of the year when people expected they would be anticipating celebrations and time with their families over the Christmas and New Year break. Instead, they are waiting to hear if they have work or not.”

Laurel says details of the redundancies are expected to be announced in a week’s time, “but for 20 people, it won’t be good news and it’s through no fault of their own.”

ENDS

For more information, contact:

Laurel Reid E tū Lead Organiser ph. 027 591 0024

 

E tū welcomes Pike River re-entry

E tū has welcomed the decision to proceed with the re-entry of the Pike River mine drift in a bid to uncover the cause of death of the 29 men who died there in November 2010.

The Minister in charge of the re-entry effort, Andrew Little made the announcement this morning, together with some of the Pike River families, E tū officials, police, and members of the Pike River Recovery Agency.

“This is a major victory for the families and their supporters who fought hard for this outcome, which we hope will further illuminate the cause of this tragedy which cost the lives of 29 workers,” says Paul Tolich, E tū Senior Industrial Officer.

“The more we know, the more we can plan to protect lives in high-risk industries,” he says.

“For the families, it holds the hope of closure and it is a milestone in the campaign for justice.

“It is also important for health and safety and the prevention of deaths on the job. All workers have the right to return home to their families at the end of the working day.

“The union also congratulates Andrew Little, the Minister responsible for the Pike River entry, who has shown fine leadership in carrying this task through to fruition.

“Although she is no longer with us, Helen Kelly has also been vindicated in her support for the families and the fight to re-enter the mine.

“This also shows what can be achieved by those who battle for a just outcome. The families have shown that if you campaign long enough and your cause is just, you can achieve success despite the naysayers who told the families they were wasting their time.

“When you have a government determined to do the right thing, you can achieve an outcome that serves justice and vindicates the families’ long years of struggle.

“This is yet again another example where the Labour/NZ First government has fulfilled the promises made on the campaign trail.”

ENDS

For more information, contact:

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

 

Big fine after worker caught in press

31 October 2018

MEDIA RELEASE

Big fine after worker caught in press

E tū has welcomed the big fine handed down to Carter Holt Harvey LVL plant at Ruakaka in Northland after a member was seriously injured in October 2016.

Steven Vincent had his chest and shoulder crushed, suffering multiple fractures, lacerations and lung injuries after his body became trapped in a conveyor belt at the plant.

A WorkSafe investigation found the LVL press machine wasn’t guarded, in breach of the company’s health and safety procedures.

In the District Court in Whangarei today, CHH LVL Ruakaka was ordered to pay Mr Vincent $55,000 in reparations, and fined $371,000 plus costs.

E tū organiser, Annie Tothill says the judge said he had taken into account the fact that there were more than 26 previous cases involving Carter Holt Harvey, some involving a lack of guarding, which in this case added another $60,000 to the fine.

“This was essential guarding,” says Annie.

“Steve was putting his body at risk.  His whole body went into the press. Not only was there inadequate guarding: there was no guarding at all.”

Annie says the fine sends a message that workplaces must be safe and that a failure to meet basic safety requirements is unacceptable.

“Steve has suffered months of agony and recovery from his injuries – he’s only recently had more surgery for the lung damage caused by this terrible accident and may require more,” says Annie.

“He is lucky to be alive.”

ENDS

For more information, contact:

Annie Tothill E tū organiser ph. 027 573 4934

 

E tū welcomes construction initiatives

E tū says it is supportive of new government initiatives to bolster recruitment and training in the construction industry.

The initiatives, announced in Auckland today, also include new visa rules to make it easier to employ skilled migrants for specific projects.

E tū Industry Coordinator, Ron Angel says the plan means the Government will require the building companies it works with to provide training and skill development, “which we support,” he says.

He says the policy also recognises the industry is changing, with the development of new qualifications in specialised areas such as framing manufacturing and the assembly of prefabricated buildings.

“We’re in favour of this, especially if you get a qualification or credentials and you get extra money for that,” he says.

“It’s also good to see innovative new materials show-cased today, including the XLAN cross-laminated timber and construction process.”

Ron says the establishment of more industry hubs, with all the services needed to maximise recruitment, training and career development is also a sound move.

“We saw these set up in Christchurch after the quakes and they were very effective with a lot of activity generated out of them,” says Ron. “It’s a good idea.”

Ron says the union also supports planned visa changes to expedite the hiring of skilled migrants.

“These were flagged back in June and include the requirement that accredited employers including labour hire companies meet good employment standards and are committed to employing local workers.

“We are supportive of this, given the protections for migrant and local workers, as well as a construction boom that’s expected to last for many years.

“The demand for labour isn’t going to ease in the short term but the priority needs to be local jobs, training and career paths for New Zealand workers.”

ENDS

For further information, contact:

Ron Angel E tū Industry Coordinator, ph. 027 591 0055