Category: Politics

NZI misses the blindingly obvious

E tū is annoyed by the deliberate misrepresentation of collective bargaining in relation to Fair Pay Agreements by the New Zealand Initiative (NZI), in a report they released today.

The report purports to make the case against the findings of the Fair Pay Agreements Working Group, which was a group of union and business representatives, academics and experts, chaired by former Prime Minister Jim Bolger.

However, as meticulously detailed by the Council of Trade Unions, NZI has cherry-picked claims, ignored crucial evidence, and has not contributed constructively to the discussion on the issue.

E tū National Director of Campaigns Annie Newman said that NZI had completely ignored the main issue.

“Tens of thousands of working New Zealanders are living in poverty, working in industries where tendering processes mean a race to the bottom on wages,” Annie says.

“Fair Pay Agreements will set minimum standards to make sure that paying people poorly is not the way to be competitive. It really is as simple as that.”

Annie pointed to the recent Care and Support (Pay Equity) Settlement Agreement, which won equal pay for everyone in the industry.

“Carers in New Zealand won equal pay through an industry-wide agreement, similar to a Fair Pay Agreement. It was negotiated by unions, businesses, and government, and has lifted over 50,000 people off poverty wages.

“The facts are on our side – even the OECD now officially acknowledges the importance of collective bargaining. International evidence is clear that countries with mechanisms for industry-wide bargaining have better social and economic outcomes.

“However, even when proper analysis is in our favour, the most important thing for E tū members is that they are lifted out of poverty. That means proper wages and conditions, which is exactly what Fair Pay Agreements are all about.”

Annie says that people shouldn’t be tricked into thinking the debate is about different interpretations of economic analysis.

“Our priority areas for Fair Pay Agreements are cleaning and security, where it is blindingly obvious that we need better wages and conditions. Any argument against that, especially one that offers no meaningful solutions, doesn’t deserve the attention of New Zealand workers.”

ENDS

Media enquires: Sam Gribben, 027 204 6329

E tū welcomes BERL Fair Pay Agreement report

E tū has welcomed the BERL independent report emphasising the role of Fair Pay Agreements in making lives better for Kiwi workers.

E tū Assistant National Secretary Annie Newman says the findings aren’t a surprise, as New Zealand is in the minority of OECD countries that don’t have industry bargaining in the private sector, contributing to our poor record on poverty and inequality.

“The countries with the highest standards of living invariably have national or sector bargaining that ensures decent living standards. We do not.

“Fair Pay Agreements are well overdue in Aotearoa New Zealand, as workers have suffered from inadequate laws.”

Annie says that cleaning and security are two industries in real need of sector-wide bargaining.

“One of the main problems in security and cleaning is the contracting model, which sees companies in a race to the bottom with wages and conditions.

“Some of the biggest companies have told us they’d really like to pay better wages but can’t afford it as they’ll be undercut by exploitative employers. Fair Pay Agreements can be a solution to that.”

E tū members spoke at the launch of the BERL report this morning, and the union is getting ready for a big push for Fair Pay Agreements.

“We’ve been campaigning for this since before the last election, and we were very excited to see Fair Pay Agreements in Labour policy,” Annie says.

“Now’s the time to see some action – low paid workers have waited long enough.”

E tū welcomes the Wellbeing Budget

E tū is applauding the Government for today’s Wellbeing Budget, which puts significant investment in areas important for Kiwi families.

John Ryall, E tū’s Assistant National Secretary, says the Budget demonstrates that the Government has “people in need at the front of their minds”.

“This Wellbeing Budget will bring significant change for some of society’s most vulnerable people,” John says.

“The big increase in funding for mental health services was long overdue. It was good to see the Government accept nearly all of the recommendations from the mental health and addictions inquiry yesterday. Today, they’ve put their money where their mouth is.

“Indexing the main benefits to wage increases is also a good idea. For many lower income people, living costs are rising well above inflation, particularly housing costs. This new approach is more reasonable. However, benefits remain at poverty level and that still needs to be fixed.

“We are also pleased with investments in child poverty reduction, decent infrastructure, better services at schools, our hospitals, and more.

“There’s a lot to celebrate for the people who need the government’s attention most, but there’s a lot more to be done.”

ENDS

For more information and comment, contact John Ryall: 027 520 1380

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