Category: Politics

Statement on behalf of E tū members employed at Parliament

We broadly support the findings and recommendations of Debbie Francis’ independent review into Bullying and Harassment in the New Zealand Parliamentary Workplace. We want to thank staff for taking the difficult and brave step of making their voices heard in this review. 

The report highlights the unique and high-pressure environment of this workplace where an unusual employment relationship exists that has the effect of leaving staff extremely vulnerable.

There are several proposed actions outlined in the report that we believe, if taken urgently, can make a meaningful difference to address the systemic bullying and harassment in the parliamentary workplace. These are:

1.       Appoint an Independent Parliamentary Commissioner for Conduct

–        There needs to be an independent whistle-blowing mechanism for bullying and harassment in the workplace that puts accountability above political interests.

2.       Establish a Sanctions Working Group

–       We support training for Members of Parliament (MPs) to become good managers but we also want to ensure there are protections for staff entering offices where there is a high-turnover of staff.

–       We want to see additional training and mentoring for offices where this occurs before further permanent staff are hired.

–       Agencies should be responsible for temporary staff and their wellbeing in these offices.

–       Where inappropriate behaviour persists, the public should be made aware of a member’s behaviour in extreme circumstances.

3.       Identify a single employer for each job role

–        The Review’s recommendations go into significant detail outlining a new HR system but we feel that until there is absolute clarity on who is the employer for each of the roles at parliament there will be no accountability.

4.       Replace current events-based contracts for Member support and political staff with new fixed term employment agreements for the duration of a parliamentary term

Unfortunately, some of the recommendations ignore the reality of political parties who need to function in the parliamentary workplace.

The Francis Review also mentions remuneration reviews for staff who work long hours in an extraordinary environment. It is important to note that some political parties have the means to provide additional benefits to staff and others do not. 

It is our view that it is critical that an independent authority oversees remuneration for staff instead of political parties, who are incentivised to keep staff wages low compared with the rest of the public service due to the media scrutiny that any increases via agencies would attract.

This is the collective lived experience of staff who believe that these are the changes that need to be a priority for the next steps in the response to the Review.

ENDS

For more info or comment: Paul Tolich 027 593 5595

Changes to secondary tax – what you need to know

The Government is making it easier to pay the right amount of tax when you work more than one job.

Now, when IRD collects tax they will check you are paying the right amount. If something needs to change they will contact you. They might give you a new tax code or suggest you apply for a Tailored Tax Code to change the amount of tax you pay.

You can also contact IRD on 0800 775 247 yourself to check your tax code or ask for a Tailored Tax Code.

Even if you have not got a new tax code, if you have paid too much tax during the year, the IRD will now automatically refund it into your bank account after the end of the year (so make sure your bank account details are up to date). If you have not paid enough tax at the end of the year, IRD will automatically let you know and tell you how long you have to pay what you owe.

If you have children under 18, at the same time you should also ask IRD to check whether you are eligible for Working for Families. Make sure you let them know if you have a new baby too, because there are extra payments for kids under one year old.

If you have no children, but you earn between $24,000 and $48,000, make sure you signed up for the Independent Earner Tax Credit. This is worth $10 per week.

Make sure your employer has your IRD number and that IRD have your contact details.

You can do all this online too. Go to www.ird.govt.nz and register for myIR.

Click here to download a PDF from IRD with more information.

E tū very disappointed by CGT announcement

E tū, the biggest private sector union in New Zealand, is very disappointed that the Government will not adopt any of the Tax Working Group’s recommendations on introducing a capital gains tax (CGT).

Annie Newman, E tū’s National Director of Campaigns, says that this development is a step backwards in the much-needed tax reform debate.

“Workers pay tax on every dollar they earn, it’s ridiculous that some of the very richest people don’t have to contribute,” Annie says.

“Having everyone pay their fair share is a fundamental principle of a well-functioning tax system. We all need our schools, hospitals, roads, and many other things that taxes pay for.”

Annie says that the commitment from the Prime Minister that there will not be a CGT while she is leader is particularly disappointing.

“There’s definitely an argument that the Labour Party has not yet won the public debate on this element of tax law reform. However, that’s a good reason to strengthen the public discussion – not to rule out important tools for tackling inequality.

Annie says that this decision means that the Government will need to be even more committed to other policies for tackling inequality in New Zealand.

“There is still some hope for continuing to fix poverty in New Zealand. Policies like Fair Pay Agreements, ethical procurement, better healthcare, free education, and affordable housing all have a big part to play.

“Working people may have lost this one, but we’ll continue our campaigns for real change – that’s what New Zealanders deserve.”

ENDS

For more information and comment:
Annie Newman, 027 204 6340
If Annie isn’t able to answer your call, please send her a text and she will respond as soon as possible.

Fair tax proposal will benefit workers

E tū supports the report released by the Tax Working Group today, which proposes changes to the tax system, including a capital gains tax.

Assistant National Secretary John Ryall says that the proposals would clearly make the tax system fairer.

“It’s unreasonable for workers to pay tax on every hour on the job, while speculators don’t pay a cent on what they make off some investments,” John says.

“No one seriously argues that we don’t need taxation, so it’s easy to understand that everyone should pay their fair share for all the infrastructure and services our taxes pay for.”

“The capital gains tax would also be part of a much-needed intervention in the housing market, where house prices and rents are soaring far beyond acceptable levels.”

However, John says the tax system could still be improved.

“To really tackle inequality, we do need other changes. If lower income earners shouldered less of the tax burden, we would see outcomes improve across society. The costs of poverty affect everyone.

“While the Tax Working Group’s preference is to increase the bottom tax threshold, the report states that ‘a material reduction in income inequality through the personal tax system would require broader income tax changes’ – we think that’s worth exploring, as well as other options outside of the Tax Working Group’s scope.

“We also need to clean up the secondary tax system which sees many low-paid workers doing multiple jobs paying more than they are obliged to.

“While they can claim this overpayment back as a refund, that added layer of complication is unnecessary and means that some workers miss out.”

ENDS

John can be contacted from 4pm on 027 520 1380

Next step for Fair Pay Agreements

E tū, the largest private sector trade union in New Zealand, is pleased with the recommendations of the Fair Pay Agreement working group, released today.

The report includes strong arguments for the need to change the system to be fairer for workers. It explains how similar industry-wide bargaining systems have been crucial for lifting living standards around the world.

The recommendations are comprehensive and include a detailed design of a Fair Pay Agreement system.

E tū security guard Wayne Richdale says it’s high time for fairness across the security industry.

“I’ve worked in security on just above the minimum wage. It’s tough,” Wayne says.

“Now that I’m on the Living Wage, thanks to our campaign at Wellington City Council, getting by is a lot easier. I wish that all of my colleagues in the security industry were afforded the same respect.”

However, Wayne says it’s not just about decent pay.

“Pay is just one of many issues in the security industry. A decent Fair Pay Agreement could give security guards job security, sort out health and safety issues, ensure decent training and education opportunities, and a whole lot more.

“A lot of the bigger firms try to do things pretty well. It’s the pirates out there that undercut everyone else to get contracts – that’s what’s driving down pay and conditions and that’s what Fair Pay Agreements will address.”

E tū’s Assistant National Secretary John Ryall, who is on the Working Group, says many industries could benefit from a Fair Pay Agreement.

“Security is one of a number of industries where workers are crying out for fair, minimum standards,” says John.

“Many workers, particularly those employed by contractors, are affected by the ‘race to the bottom’ in their industries. This is why workers such as cleaners have been stuck on or just above minimum wage for far too long.

“The recommendations released today are just one step in the process – our union is very eager to see the Government take action on Fair Pay Agreements as soon as possible.

“I’m pleased to have played my part in the process and I’m confident that workers’ voices have been well represented in the process so far.”

ENDS

For more information and comment:
John Ryall – 027 520 1380

E tū members may be available for interviews throughout the day, please contact Sam Gribben – 027 204 6329

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

New apprenticeships programme an “excellent initiative”

E tū, the largest private sector union in New Zealand, is celebrating the Government’s focus on apprenticeships in the ‘Mana in Mahi’ programme announced today.

The new policy will help get young Kiwis into apprenticeships by subsidising wages paid to 18-24 year olds who have been on a benefit for six months or more.

E tū Construction Industry Coordinator Ron Angel says that it’s great that construction work is targeted in this programme.

“It’s an excellent initiative. There is plenty of construction work to do, and with so many of our country’s young people not in education or employment it makes a lot of sense to help them into the industry,” Ron says.

“While construction apprentices generally get paid around the minimum wage to begin with, there are opportunities to move up the pay scale relatively quickly.

“This policy should give young people a great opportunity to develop skills for well-paid, meaningful work in the construction industry.”

Ron says that government programmes will be an essential part of preparing New Zealand for the changing world of work.

“The world of work is changing rapidly, and as a nation we need to be preparing young people by giving them the experience and skills needed to handle that. E tū is relieved to have a Government that’s looking towards the future.”

ENDS

For more information or comment:
Ron Angel, 027 591 0055
If Ron cannot answer straight away, please leave a message and he will return your call.

Families package to benefit members

E tū says thousands of its members are expected to benefit from the Government’s Families Package, which comes into effect today.

The package includes:

  • widening eligibility for key benefits including Working for Families which will increase for many
  • wider access to the Accommodation supplement and an increase for eligible people in expensive locations such as Auckland and Hamilton
  • a Winter Fuel benefit
  • A lift in the Family Tax Credit and an increase in the abatement threshold.
  • Best Start payments for families with a new baby.

The implementation of the package also coincides with the extension of Paid Parental Leave to 22 weeks.

“The Government is committed to addressing child poverty in this country and the only way to do that is to lift the family income,” says E tū Industry Coordinator, Jill Ovens.

“That’s what this package does in many different ways, including crucially in the child’s first year of life, and for three years for those on low incomes. $3,000 a year will make a huge difference towards giving children a really good start,” she says.

Jill says the extension of paid parental leave will also benefit children by giving parents, whether the father or the mother time to strengthen the bond with their baby.

“That’s all about giving parents choices,” she says.

Jill says the changes are complex and members should check the details of the package to establish their correct entitlements.

ENDS

For further information, contact:

Jill Ovens E tū Industry Coordinator ph. 027 446 4966

We can put media in touch with members who can speak to the Winter Fuel payment and the lift in Working for Families as well as the effect of changing abatement levels on benefits.

 

 

 

 

 

 

E tū: labour reforms long over-due

E tū says proposed changes to the Employment Relations Act are long over-due and essential to addressing widespread labour abuses in New Zealand.

However, it opposes the amendment which would retain 90-day trial periods in workplaces with fewer than 20 workers.

In its submission on the Bill, the union says the changes recognise the role of unions in improving workers’ lives and the need to level the playing field.

“The previous National Government changed the law to weaken protections for our members, particularly the most vulnerable, such as cleaners and security guards,” says John Ryall, E tū Assistant National Secretary.

“The pendulum has swung too far in the direction of employers, and the changes would go a long way towards legitimising the vital role of unions in improving pay and conditions, and rebuilding respect between workers and their employers,” he says.

In particular, John says the union supports an amendment to Part 6A of the Act, to restore protections for vulnerable workers in firms of less than 20 people.

“The exemption to this protection has resulted in the decimation of cleaning jobs and abuses of cleaners on a huge scale. Bullying, cuts to hours and jobs and short-pays are endemic in this industry,” says John.

E tū also strongly opposes the Bill’s preservation of 90-day trial periods for employers with fewer than 20 workers.

John says 90-day trials should be scrapped altogether.

“This unfair law has been used on tens of thousands of people, and is devastating for many,” he says.

He cites the case of a member who recently won a settlement after being sacked on the last day of her 90-day trial at a top plastics firm, after she notified the company she couldn’t work because she had a sick child.

“This was a disgraceful example of how unfairly this law has been used,” John says.

ENDS

For further information, contact;

John Ryall E tū Assistant National Secretary ph. 027 520 1380

John will be presenting E tū’s submission to the Education and Workforce Select Committee on Wednesday, 23 May at 10.45am, together with E tū members.