Category: General

The Christchurch tragedy

Dear E tū members,

We have returned to work this week under the sorrowful shadow of a great and unjust tragedy.

On behalf of all E tū members I express my respect and support to all of our many Muslim and migrant members and your families. We are proud of what you bring to your union and your country.

Our Christchurch members and your families feel, understandably, that you have been kicked in the guts again.

Our Christchurch union staff and a number of elected delegates supported each other in lockdown at our Cashel St office into Friday evening while the situation unfolded and stabilised. We have staff and members who have been directly affected by this terrorist atrocity.

I would like to thank our E tū members at the hospitals that have been working around the clock to make sure the victims get the best care possible. This includes security, orderlies, cleaners, food service workers and trade staff.

I believe New Zealanders have a keen collective sense of respect, tolerance, dignity and a fair-go for all and this has really shone through in our nations response over recent days.  I have received a huge number of messages of support from across the global union movement, expressing the solidarity of working people across the world.

We mourn with our fellow Kiwis who have lost their loved ones.  Our union can play a key role in assisting members over the next period.  We have already started assisting with public rallies during the weekend and that will continue.

Please click here for some more information from us that I hope you find helpful.

Solidarity Christchurch.

Bill Newson
National Secretary

Working in high temperatures

29 January 2019

There are no legal limits as to what temperatures workers can safely work in. But your employers has a duty of care to provide a safe environment. 

You also have rights with respect to this.

  • If workers have reasonable grounds, they can refuse unsafe work but need to be available for other work.
  • If you think you’re working conditions are unsafe, say so – this is best done collectively.
  • Contact your union if you need help: we can support you in raising the issue with your employer.

We can also advocate for solutions such as the following:

  • Air conditioning – people can hire air-conditioning units. If this is not practical, ask for a unit to be placed in a room, such as the cafeteria or staff-room, so people can go there and cool off.
  • Request extra cooling off breaks, in the airconditioned room – this has worked well in the past in hospital kitchens and in some factories.
  • There is work-gear, such as cooling vests, which are chilled in a fridge, and used to cool the body. Ask your boss about these. Clothing like heavy cotton overalls traps heat. Light cotton is good.
  • Ask for water fountains on-site: if that’s not possible, make sure you drink plenty of water.
  • Many people work outdoors – you could ask the boss to consider a change of hours so people work when it’s cooler.
  • People should not do heavy work in high temperatures: ask you boss if you can defer this work until the weather cools down again.
  • Remember hats, sunscreen and light protective clothing.
  • Longer-term, bargain for acceptable heating and cooling systems in your workplace.

E tū celebrates largest ever minimum wage increase

The minimum wage is set to increase by $1.20 to $17.70 in April 2019 – the largest increase in the adult minimum wage in New Zealand history in dollar terms.

This is the biggest leap yet towards the Coalition Government’s promise to increase the minimum wage to $20 by 2021.

E tū National Secretary Bill Newson says the increase is another clear demonstration of the Coalition Government’s commitment to working people.

“This Government continues to prove that they really care about workers and their families,” Bill says.

“Lifting the minimum wage is relatively straight forward, and the evidence shows that bringing wages up is the clear path out of poverty in New Zealand.

“Together with the recent Employment Relations Act changes and the ongoing work on Fair Pay Agreements, the Government is taking us in the right direction. This is another good step forward.”

Mareta Sinoti, a cleaner at the National Library in Wellington, says that while the increase is welcome, it’s not going to solve all the problems.

“The thing is, we need a Living Wage,” Mareta says.

“Everything is just too expensive. Rent, food, and transport costs are increasing all the time. When you add up the 10-trip for the train, the costs of clothes for our families, and everything else, it’s just too much.

“It’s great that the minimum wage is going up to $17.70, but how long have we waited for it to get there?”

ENDS

LSG SkyChefs decision “important legal victory”

E tū is welcoming the decision of the Court of Appeal to turn down an appeal application from global airline catering company LSG SkyChefs, cementing an important legal victory for New Zealand workers.

Last year, the Employment Court ruled that hundreds of labour hire workers working in LSG SkyChef’s catering operation were in fact employees of the company, and if they were union members then they were entitled to the employment conditions set out in the union collective agreement.

E tū Assistant National Secretary John Ryall said that the Court of Appeal decision meant that the litigation was at an end, and LSG SkyChefs would need to pay the labour hire workers their proper entitlements.

“This decision cements our very important legal victory for the New Zealand workforce,” says John.

“Labour hire is being regularly used by many New Zealand companies to move the risk of employment on to a group of very vulnerable workers. It is time that the companies using labour hire in this way changed their business model.

“Our union will be knocking on the door of other companies who were also exploiting the mostly migrant labour hire workforce.”

ENDS

For more information or comment:
John Ryall, 027 520 1380

Fair Pay Agreements: work begins

E tū welcomes the setting up of the working group on Fair Pay Agreements.

E tū’s National Director of Campaigns, Annie Newman says today’s announcement is the fulfilment of a key election promise to workers, who need greater support for their pay and conditions.

FPAs would set basic standards for pay and conditions across an entire industry, through collective bargaining by businesses and unions.

“The stories in the media every day revealing workers being ripped off show that our current employment relations system is not working,” says Annie.

“Workers in small workplaces, especially in the service sector, have very little bargaining power. Even in industries where there are labour shortages, employers are too scared to lift their pay in case another employer undermines them,” she says.

“Fair Pay Agreements will set minimum standards for wages and conditions and will give these workers a real say in their minimum employment conditions.”

E tū Industry Co-ordinator Jill Ovens says a particular concern is the plight of vulnerable workers such as security guards.

“We have collective agreements with the bigger security companies that provide for hours of work, training, health and safety, protections of workers’ rights if they get into trouble, and so on.

“But these companies tell us they are constantly being undercut by cowboys in the industry who have a churn of guards on individual agreements.”

Jill says E tū is working with the Security Association to improve the professionalism of workers in the industry, but that means bringing the terms and conditions of these ‘bottom feeders’ into line.

She says government entities are prominent among those rewarding tenders which cut costs, including workers’ wages and hours to the bone, in “a race to the bottom”.

Annie Newman said employers’ doom and gloom rhetoric about FPAs should be discounted as they had wrongly told people they would pave the way for industrial unrest.

“There is no right to strike for an FPA and all Agreements will be negotiated collectively,” she says.

E tū has also welcomed the inclusion on the FPA team of E tū Assistant Secretary, John Ryall.

ENDS

For more information, contact:

Annie Newman E tū Director of Campaigns ph. 027 204 6340

Jill Ovens Industry Co-ordinator ph. 027 446 4966

 

 

New Zealander of the Year urges women to “reach high”

New Zealander of the Year, and E tū’s equal pay hero, Kristine Bartlett has marked International Women’s Day with a message to women fighting for equal pay.

“Stand up for what you believe is right and fair and reach high,” says Kristine.

Kristine, who led the campaign for pay equity for care and support workers, says the historic settlement won last year has lifted pay for these predominantly female workers and set a precedent for other women.

That includes early childhood workers who will today be among those presenting the Council of Trade Union’s Treat Her Right equal pay petition to the Equal Employment Opportunities Commissioner, Dr Jackie Blue.

“I had a chat with them about a year ago and they acknowledged I’d given them inspiration to fight, and I said, that’s what you’ve got to do if you want something and you deserve it.

“Never give up.  Keep going the way I did the last five years, along with my union.”

Kristine is delighted that this year, International Women’s Day coincides with the global campaign by women against sexual harassment. She says in many ways 2018 is the year of women.

“I’m just so pleased about that – I can say “#MeToo” because I’ve been down that road as well,” she says.

“It’s just so important that we’re starting to do something positive and encouraging people not to be afraid but to speak the truth and let people know what’s going on and what we’ve been through.

“We need a bit of respect in our lives and we deserve it. #MeToo is great – all over the world women are getting the courage to speak up.”

Moe mai ra Jim Anderton

E tū is saddened by the passing of Jim Anderton, our former Deputy Prime Minister and a huge figure in the Labour Movement.

E tū Assistant National Secretary John Ryall says that Jim’s legacy is a better New Zealand for working people.

“He was bold, hard-working, and courageous. He was known for standing up for what was right, even when it was hard,” John says.

“Workers can thank Jim and the movement he led for policies like four weeks annual leave, the introduction of paid parental leave, and the creation of Kiwibank.

“Jim spent his political career fighting for working people and their families. He had an intrinsic respect and passion for everyday workers, the outcome of which was a powerful voice for workers in parliament, in government, and on the streets.

“The values Jim applied to politics were in many ways exemplary for the wider Labour Movement, particularly as he was so aspirational for a better world.

“The E tū family passes on our condolences to Jim’s wife Carole and their loved ones.”

ENDS

UCG “volunteer” model for Chorus fibre optics build “completely unacceptable”

E tū says the so-called “volunteer” scheme run by Chorus fibre optics contractor, Universal Communications Group is a clear case of migrant exploitation.

E tū’s Communications Industry Coordinator, Joe Gallagher says the union recently learned of the scheme through a UCG document advising its subcontractors of the rules around recruiting these “volunteers”.

“With what’s happened in Nelson, it’s obvious now that this was about exploiting migrants who were contracted to work for free. That’s disgraceful and unacceptable,” says Joe.

Joe says Chorus had no choice but to instruct UCG to scrap the scheme once someone blew the whistle.

However, he says the scheme is the inevitable outcome of Chorus’s determination to drive down the cost of its fibre optic installation programme.

“Chorus has driven the cost so low that experienced contractors like Downer have quit.  Skilled workers have been forced out and they’ve been replaced by inexperienced people, who will work for less or in this case, nothing at all.”

Joe is urging the Government to investigate the true state of the workforce rolling out this  critical infrastructure.

“This is government money so there should be transparency. We shouldn’t be seeing this type of exploitation of workers in New Zealand,” he says.

ENDS

For more information, contact:

Joe Gallagher E tū Communications Industry Coordinator, ph. 027 591 0015