Category: General

Minimum wage increases vital for over 250,000 workers

Tomorrow’s scheduled minimum wage increase is vital for the hundreds of thousands of minimum wage earners who are doing it tough through the COVID-19 global pandemic.

E tū Assistant National Secretary Annie Newman says that while life is difficult for minimum wage workers at the best of times, the current economic conditions make things a lot worse.

“Far too often, the poorest and most vulnerable in our society bear the brunt of economic downturns,” Annie says.

“We know that low wage workers spend the largest chunk of their wages in the local economy. Keeping money in the pockets of our lowest paid will be vital for stimulating the economy as we go forward.”

Annie says that the minimum wage will help many of the people in essential industries and services.

“Many minimum wage workers are also on the COVID-19 frontlines, including in security and cleaning. These workers get up every day to make sure our communities are safe and healthy. Yet they are paid as low as they legally can be – it’s an injustice.

“A minimum wage increase tomorrow means it will be easier for these workers to keep food on the table and keep the heaters on through the pandemic. Surely there’s not much more important than protecting our frontline workers.”

Annie dismisses the claims from some groups that the minimum wage increase should be delayed.

“These are the same groups that argue against minimum wage increase in any weather. Their fears are always unfounded – their predicted economic outcomes never come to pass.

“New Zealanders will get through the COVID-19 crisis by sticking together and looking out for each other. Scheduled minimum wage increases are one part of that picture. While the minimum wage will still be short of the Living Wage, the increase is a hell of a lot better than nothing.”

ENDS

For more information or comment: Annie Newman, 027 204 6340

E tū Support phone lines affected by national interruptions

Dear members,

With the significant announcement made by the PM this afternoon that we are on the way to ‘alert level 4’, we are experiencing an extremely high number of calls to E tū Support and we are affected by the nation-wide interruption to phone lines. We appreciate that there is so much uncertainly and many people will need to talk to the union about work arrangements.
If you can, please send an email to [email protected] instead of calling, or try calling later.

We appreciate your understanding and will continue to work to get everyone as well informed and represented as possible as the situation develops.

Stay safe out there.

COVID-19: Useful info for E tū members

Dear E tū members,

As you all know, COVID-19 (coronavirus) is a serious developing situation in New Zealand and across the whole world. We know many of our members are facing uncertainty, especially in their jobs.

Your union is acting quickly to support you with the best information and advocacy possible.

E tū’s position

E tū is advocating for the health and safety of our members, and for our members to keep their incomes and leave entitlements if they need to self-isolate, have time to care for dependents, or are sick themselves with COVID-19.

This means that you shouldn’t have to go to work if you are sick or if you are in danger of transmitting or catching COVID-19.

This also means you should get paid when you need to be away from work because of COVID-19, including when you are in self-isolation as directed by the Government or health officials.

Our first call is for employers to use their own resources to make this possible. We also recognise that the pandemic is huge, and that there is a strong role for Government to invest in our wellbeing and in our futures.

Now it the time to talk with your fellow union members at work about how you will respond to the pandemic at your workplace. Our voices will need to be heard at all levels of decision-making.

The Government package

The Government has released the first step in their emergency package to help workers and the economy through the pandemic. It is only a first step, but we welcome the support for all working people, whether they are employees, contractors, or casual workers.

What this means specifically for your job and industry will become clearer in the coming days and weeks. Click here to read our statement about the announcement today.

E tū will update you in the coming days. Remember you can call E tū Support on 0800 1 UNION (0800 186 466).

General guidance from MBIE

  • If an employer requires an employee not to come to a workplace, workers should be paid. Paid sick leave (and anticipated sick leave) may be used if the person is sick or needs to care for a sick dependent. If paid sick leave is not available, special paid leave should be considered. Other forms of paid leave can be used by agreement between the employer and the employee.
  • If an employee, who has been advised to self-isolate under Ministry of Health guidelines for COVID-19, can’t practicably work from home, then special paid leave should be considered. Other forms of paid leave can be considered (such as paid sick leave) and used by agreement between the employer and the employee.
  • Your employer has a responsibility to manage the health risks to workers and other people affected in the workplace and treat employees in good faith. They should plan ahead and work with workers and unions for likely scenarios of COVID-19.
  • If workers are sick with COVID-19 or have been advised to self-isolate under Ministry of Health guidelines for COVID-19, your employer must act in a way to contain COVID-19 and protect public health.
  • Workers cannot be allowed or required to come to workplace when they are sick with COVID-19 or if they have been advised to self-isolate under public health guidelines for COVID-19. If employers allow this, they are likely to be in breach of their duties under the Health and Safety at Work Act.
  • Employers might explore whether working from home is practicable during the self-isolation period. In that case, workers should be paid normally.
  • Contractor pay and leave is not covered by this guidance. Employers and contractors can agree to any payment arrangements they wish to.

COVID-19 package “A strong start”

E tū is welcoming the Government’s first phase of the financial stimulus package.

E tū Assistant National Secretary Rachel Mackintosh says that the announcement is a strong start and will help some workers deal with the stress that COVID-19 (coronavirus) is causing in their work lives and beyond.

“We have now been assured that the Government is taking an appropriate leadership role in protecting New Zealand workers, businesses, and communities,” Rachel says.

“We particularly welcome the aspects of the package that support all working people, whether they are employees, contractors, or casual workers.

“It’s very important to get this right, as the gig economy sees more and more workers without the protections that they need.”

However, Rachel acknowledges that many E tū members will need further assurance that they will be looked after.

“The $100 million allocated for assisting with redeployment will be crucial for our members who are already facing redundancies. Redeployment needs to happen effectively, which means consolation with workers, unions, iwi, and the wider community.

“We eagerly anticipate the details of the package that will relate to certain E tū members, such as the over 5,000 E tū members at Air New Zealand. We urge Air New Zealand and other aviation employers to come to the party, as the Government has done.

“The Finance Minister has described the response as ‘swift, decisive, and compassionate’ which is exactly the right direction to be heading in.

“We will stay together in union and engage with the Government and employers to end up in the best possible position. This is the start of a very rocky road, and the voice of working people will be vital at every twist and turn.”

ENDS

For more info and comment:
Rachel Mackintosh, 027 543 7943

COVID-19: Air NZ cannot afford to lose valuable staff

E tū is urging Air New Zealand and all aviation employers to minimise job losses as the company announces they estimate 30% workers will be made redundant as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

E tū, the largest aviation union in New Zealand with 5,200 at Air New Zealand, is holding urgent delegate meetings across the workforce to discuss the company’s announcement.

E tū Assistant National Secretary Rachel Mackintosh says that mass redundancies will not be in the company’s long-term interest.

“Air New Zealand knows that their dedicated workers are the backbone of their operation. Our challenge to them is to hold fast to their commitment to high-wage, high-skill employment,” Rachel says.

“They have a choice in how they respond to this crisis and we call on them to work with people in our unions to find a way through that builds a future of decent work, skill development and a strong voice for the experts – the people who do the work.”

Rachel says that it’s not just aviation workers who will be affected by immediate economic impact of the pandemic.

“This is the start of a much larger challenge that all Kiwis will need to face together. Air New Zealand has an opportunity to lead by example and pull out all stops to keep workers employed in good jobs.

“As the largest private sector union in New Zealand, with over 54,000 members, we represent people across the many industries that will be affected by the economic effects of COVID-19.

“People working in hospitality and tourism will clearly feel knock-on effects from the border restrictions. Our members in healthcare, including aged care and hospital workers, are understandably worried about the months ahead.”

E tū is expecting the Government’s economic package announced tomorrow to minimise the impact of the economic downturn on workers in aviation and beyond as much as possible.

“Working people simply cannot bear the brunt of the incoming economic fallout. Our Government’s intervention must go as far as it possibly can to guarantee income for everyone affected.”

ENDS

For more info and comment:
Rachel Mackintosh, 027 543 7943

E tū is deferring our Delegate Forums due to COVID-19 (coronavirus)

You will all be aware of the fast-developing COVID-19 (coronavirus) situation. The Government has announced tight measures to contain the virus as long as possible before community-transmission takes hold.  We are playing our part in the public health response.

E tū is deferring our Delegate Forums that were going to be held during April until further notice.

Please advise your employer now that leave to attend your Delegate Forum is no longer required.

Delegate Forum remits and representation to our July 2020 E tū Conference
 
Our Delegate Forums include two important constitutional functions:

  • Delegate Forums can put remits to the E tū Biennial Conference scheduled for July 2020.
  • Delegate Forums elect representatives to attend Conference.

Over the next few days, we will be emailing you to call for remits and nominations for Conference representation.
 
Conference remits
 
Over the coming days, we will send you an email calling for any remits that you may want to have discussed at Conference.
 
Any remits that are sent back to us will be tracked to the relevant Delegate Forum that they are linked to.  Remember that under our rules our National Executive will be making recommendations to conference in relation to remits received.
 
Conference representatives
 
We will also email you to call for nominations from among delegates to represent their Delegate Forum at our Conference.
 
We will receive those nominations, including the required nominator and seconder, and track them to the Delegate Forum they are linked to.  Nominations must have a brief supporting biography.
 
We will then run an online voting process sending nominations and biographies to delegates linked to relevant Delegate Forums and receiving their online vote response.
 
Our Returning Officer, Christopher Gordon, has already been endorsed by our National Executive and can oversee the voting process.
 
There is no need to do anything now – we will email you separately on these matters over the coming days.
 
Thank you.
 
Bill Newson
E tū National Secretary

COVID-19 (coronavirus) info for E tū members

In brief:

  • You should not be going to work if you get sick.
  • Your employer can’t make you take unpaid leave for directed leave (such as preventative self-isolation after potential exposure to the virus).
  • E tū will advocate with your employer to make sure you are not unnecessarily out of pocket.

All workers who have potential coronavirus symptoms or who may have been in contact with anyone who may have coronavirus are being asked by the Government to register with Healthline and undertake self-isolation for 14 days as a precaution to help stop the spread of the virus.

Self-isolation means staying away from others, which obviously prohibits attending the workplace in most cases.

Under the Health and Safety at Work Act, all employers have a duty to eliminate or minimise risks and hazards to their workers and any others who may come to the workplace. This means they should not require an employee to come to work if they are required to be in self-isolation.
 
Where staff are in isolation, we argue that the appropriate course of action for employers is to continue to pay them as normal.

It would not be appropriate for an employer to require an employee to take annual leave or unpaid leave where they are in isolation for legitimate health and safety reasons.

In our view, requiring employees to use sick leave entitlement would be unfair as ‘self-isolation for 14 days’ consumes most sick leave entitlement for a whole year.

It may be possible for an employee to work from home and this should be explored.

Employers are obliged to operate in good faith in their employment relationships.  Isolation due to coronavirus is an extenuating individual circumstance and we ask employers to recognise that by allowing the 14 days isolation period on normal pay. 

Further, if an employer directs and employee to not attend work when they are fit and able for work then the employer must pay them for that time away from work.

Bill Newson
National Secretary

Rest in peace, Mike Moore

E tū acknowledges the passing of Former Prime Minister Mike Moore.

E tū National Secretary Bill Newson says that Mike’s contribution to New Zealand politics can be remembered for him taking the lead while facing adversity.

“He stepped up for the New Zealand Labour Party when times were really tough,” Bill says.

“Mike’s period of leadership was an important part of the party’s ability to begin to rebuild during some turbulent times in New Zealand’s recent political history.”

“Mike was also a life member of the Printers’ Union, one of E tū’s legacy unions. He was an active trade unionist from a young age and understood the importance of workers being represented in politics.”

“E tū would like to pass on sincere condolences to Mike’s family and loved ones.”

Another much-needed minimum wage increase

The Government are continuing their commitment to raise wages for Kiwis with the announcement that the statutory minimum wage will go up to $18.90 in April 2020.

The increase of $1.20 is equal to this year’s increase, which was the biggest increase in the adult minimum wage in dollar terms in New Zealand’s history.

Auckland security guard Lavinia Kafoa is thrilled with the news.

“It really sounds great to me. As a single mother, every bit of extra income makes a lot of difference,” Lavinia says.

“For my family, being on minimum wage means I spend many more hours at work than with my boys at home. I explain to them that mum has to work more hours to earn more money so we can afford everything we need.

“It’s a struggle to keep up the all the rising costs, especially rent.

“It can be especially hard during the school holidays. My boys are at home, so I have to get everything ready for them before I go to work. I wish I could spend more time with them.”

Lavinia says that the struggle is felt by her colleagues as well.

“Lots of us at work are single parents so we’re on the same page. We don’t like working for only the minimum wage, but we have no choice. We need to get out there and earn what we can.”

E tū Assistant National Secretary Annie Newman says that while minimum wage increases are very important, they are only one part of the picture.

“We’re very pleased that the Government has kept to their commitment of significant increases to the minimum wage,” Annie says.

“However, we’re still waiting for the Government to deliver on some of their other promises. In the 2017 election campaign, all three coalition partners committed to paying the Living Wage to all core government workers, including those employed by contractors.

“Time’s running out to deliver the Living Wage for the people who need it most.”

Annie says that it’s not just all about wage increases.

“If the Government is to oversee fundamental changes to the New Zealand workforce, they need to implement strong Fair Pay Agreement legislation as soon as possible.

“Many thousands of workers on low wages are exploited by the contracting model, which sees businesses in a ‘race to the bottom’ – paying low wages to stay competitive.

“Fair Pay Agreements would put a stop to that by setting minimum standards bargained by unions and employers. Security guards like Lavinia, as well as cleaners, retail workers, and many others would have their lives transformed by decent Fair Pay Agreement legislation.

“We whole-heartedly commend the Government for lifting wages – now let’s see the transformational changes that we need to fix inequality in New Zealand.

ENDS

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

Lavinia Kafoa may be available for limited interviews this afternoon. To arrange:
Sam Gribben, 027 204 6329