Category: Public and Commercial Services

School cleaners beg management to step in and reverse inevitable redundancies

A group of essential workers at a South Auckland primary school are now struggling with their future after learning that they face redundancy from a job they’ve given their all to.

Around two weeks ago, the four contracted cleaners at Finlayson Park School, who have been working there for about six years and throughout the COVID-19 crisis, found out their employer’s cleaning contract had not been renewed and had been given to a franchisor instead.

But rather than rehire the existing cleaners, the franchisor has proposed to contract the work to a family-run franchisee.

The cleaners have pleaded with the school’s management to meet with them to hear their concerns.

They want the school to directly employ them at the Living Wage rate to do the job – a cost the Ministry of Education agreed to cover for all directly employed E tū members working as school caretakers, cleaners, and canteen staff back in 2019 – or for the franchisee to employ them to carry on the work.

“The school’s principal and the chairperson of the board of trustees didn’t want to talk to us or even listen to how we feel,” says one cleaner, Siatua Alani.

“We feel really hurt – betrayed, disrespected, and not valued. At least they could acknowledge the good work we have done for the school. It feels like they just don’t care – it feels like we are nothing to them.”

All the cleaners live locally, and many have also had children who have been through the school.

“We always used to go the extra mile as our kids went to school here, and in the past year we’ve been doing our bit to keep the school community safe as essential workers. Then we get treated this way,” says another cleaner, Lika Toleafoa.

“All we want to do is continue cleaning for the school.”

E tū organiser Fala Haulangi says it’s a huge deal for the school cleaners to lose their jobs.

“Although they have been paid for the past week, there has been no work for these cleaners since the Friday before last.

“E tū has basically been told by the incoming franchisor via their consultation document, there will be no work for them in the future as this is carried out by franchisees,” Fala says.

“Living and working locally was a way for these essential, loyal yet low-paid workers to continue to survive financially, as well as having a strong sense of community and working for the greater good.

“The school’s management have control over who they choose to clean the school, and they’ve chosen to go with this franchisor, even though they knew that it would mean their old cleaners would likely lose their jobs.”

Fala says management needs to reconsider its decision, or request that their new contracted franchisee rehire the existing cleaners.

“There is absolutely no reason the school cannot employ the cleaners directly to do the job and at the Living Wage too – an expense that would be funded by the Ministry of Education. We are calling on the school to step up and do the right thing.”

“This situation highlights perfectly why Fair Pay Agreements are crucial to make sure all workers, including contractors, have minimum employment standards and conditions, and to stop employers’ ‘race to the bottom’.

The cleaners’ redundancy consultation ended on Friday 25 June.

ENDS

For more information and comment:
Fala Haulangi, 027 204 6332

Profile: Lalopua Sanele QSM

E tū leader, delegate, and cleaner Lalopua Sanele has been awarded a Queen’s Service Medal (QSM) in the Queen’s Birthday honours list 2021, for services to the union movement and Samoan community. Here’s a little bit more about Lalopua and her story of service.

Lalopua Sanele came to New Zealand in 1972 and was immediately involved in the Wellington Samoan Community based around her church – St Anne’s Catholic Church in Newtown.

From 1972 until 2010 she was an active member of the St Anne’s Church Choir and she joined the Samoan Mother’s Group in 1974, where she played a leadership role and was elected as their treasurer. She was later elected as the treasurer for the Church Samoan Community, a role she held until 2000.

In 2010 she moved with the Samoan Catholic Community to St Josephs Parish in Mount Victoria, where is still an active member of Iesu le Tupu choir.

Lalopua has been employed as a cleaner at Wellington Hospital since 1987. The majority of Wellington Hospital cleaners have, for the past 40 years, been mainly from Samoa or other Pacific nations.

Due to Lalopua’s ability to organise and advocate she was elected as a workplace union delegate.

Her involvement in the union lead her to become a leader in the Wellington Hotel and Hospital Workers Union (later becoming the Service and Food Workers Union and then E tū) Komiti Pasifika. She was elected on to the union’s regional executive and later the National Executive.

Lalopua represented her union at biennial NZ Council of Trade Union Komiti Pasifika Fono and also at the South Pacific and Oceania Council of Trade Unions Conference.

Lalopua is very active in advocating for the improvement of employment rights for workers, especially for vulnerable workers, such as cleaners. She was prominent in the campaign 1999-2004 to gain an amendment to the Employment Relations Act (Part 6A) in 2004 to protect the jobs and working conditions of cleaners during tendering processes. She was able to articulate the issues for cleaners from her own experience at Wellington Hospital in going through the process of contract change and the insecurity and stress that this caused the cleaners and their families.

She appears regularly before Parliamentary Select Committees on behalf of the union supporting improvements in statutory annual leave, rest breaks and improved rights for elected workplace representatives.

Lalopua is now a cleaning supervisor at Wellington Hospital and has completed 34 years service, including working through the recent Level 4 lockdown overseeing the infection control measures put in place for hospital cleaning.

Support for health reforms but worker voice vital

E tū, one of the largest unions for DHB-employed and contracted health workers, aged care, community, and disability support service workers, welcomes the Government’s announcement to reform and centralise health services to achieve consistency in conditions for workers and better health outcomes for Māori and Pasefika.

E tū represents more than 15,000 health workers, including hospital workers directly employed by or contracted to DHBs nationwide, such as kitchen, cleaning, and laundry staff, orderlies, and security guards.

This also includes aged care workers, home support, and disability support workers.

E tū Co-President Muriel Tunoho, who also works in primary health care, says the establishment of a Māori Health Authority is a “huge” step forward.

“It’s never been done before and will prioritise Māori healthcare and outcomes in the context of the Crown’s Te Tiriti obligations.”

E tū Director in Health Sam Jones says although many of the details around the reform are yet to come, it lays the foundation and vision for a system that promises better outcomes for workers and patients alike.

“We support the Government’s vision and agree that there’s a better way to deliver on primary and community healthcare services.

“We’ll have a publicly-funded, centralised health system that will allow for greater consistency, including in decisions around procurement and employment.

“It’s our hope that the establishment of Health New Zealand will also lead to more equitable terms and conditions for the current DHB-employed and contracted health workers across the country.”

However, Sam says that worker consultation and union involvement will be crucial to getting the changes right: “Unions and workers absolutely need to be part of the transition conversation with the voices of these essential workers at the forefront, including regarding future announcements about disability support services.”

Sam says it’s also vital that structural reform of the homecare support sector remains a top priority, after a joint-union meeting with the Minister of Health last week.

“This remains a sector in crisis, and we want to see homecare support workers, who provide care for our vulnerable in their own homes, treated in accordance with the recommendations of the Health and Disability System Review.

“They should have secure salaried contracts that provide decent pay and hours, instead of the piecemeal reality which is placing many workers under unbearable financial and mental strain.”

ENDS

For more information and comment:
Sam Jones, 027 544 8563

Security guards’ job terms and conditions legally protected from July

Working life for Aotearoa New Zealand’s security guards is about to get a whole lot more secure, now they’ll be legally entitled to keep their job with its terms and conditions if another security company takes over the contract they’re employed on.

On 1 April, the Government added security guards as a category of employees to be protected under Part 6A of the Employment Relations Act.

For security guards, this means maintaining the terms and conditions of their original employment, such as pay and accrued leave, even when their contract with one security company ends and is taken over by another.

The new legislation will come into effect on 1 July.

E tū delegate and security guard Jayson Ormsby says the news is a “great accomplishment” for those in the industry.

“I always found it odd that security work was never secure. I feel really glad and happy for those workers who will now be protected, who may have lost a lot of entitlements due to contract changes in the past.”

E tū Organiser Mat Danaher says the inclusion of security guards as protected workers under Part 6A is a really positive step forward.

“At last, security guards will have some certainty as to their pay rate and benefits when they are moving from one contract and employer to another.

“They’ll have access to the hard-earned leave they’ve accumulated and won’t have to start from zero each time a contract changes hands.”

Jayson says he hopes the new law will be the start of a better foundation of employment conditions for guards, who are also campaigning for Fair Pay Agreements or industry-wide regulation across employers.

“Security guards are usually paid different rates at different sites, and they don’t have control over the sites they are deployed to work at – Fair Pay Agreements are definitely needed.”

Mat says the Part 6A protection is the first of many changes that are needed in order to create real certainty and security in the lives of this group of workers.

“We see this as important milestone in working towards Fair Pay Agreements, which will stop the inevitable driving down of workers’ terms and conditions in a ‘race to the bottom’ as employers compete for contracts.

“All security guards deserve certainty in their employment conditions and to be paid at least the Living Wage, regardless of the site they are working on.

“These workers provide a valuable and important service, while also often facing personal risk on the job,” Mat says.

“E tū will continue to campaign with and on behalf of security guards to see them further protected and the industry transformed.”

ENDS

For more information and comment:
Mat Danaher, 021 336 519

E tū welcomes vaccine arrival

The expected early arrival of Aotearoa New Zealand’s first vaccine shipment is welcome news to E tū, the union representing many border and health workers.

The Government announced this morning that the first batch of Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine should be rolled out from next week and will be delivered to border and MIQ workers and their close contacts as a priority.

E tū Assistant National Secretary Annie Newman says it is great news.

“This is a very important milestone for our COVID-19 response and takes us a step closer to getting this virus under control,” Annie says.

“It’s entirely appropriate that people working at the border and in MIQ will be vaccinated first, as they have the most risk of exposure.”

Annie says it is vital that workers are not disadvantaged by the vaccine roll-out.

“This means that workers need to be properly paid throughout the process. If they need time off work for the vaccination, that must be fully paid. If any part of the process prohibits them from working for a period, that time off should also be paid and not require workers to use up their leave.

“These basics will need to be followed for the whole roll-out, not just this first batch. As our healthcare workers and others begin getting vaccinated, all Kiwi workers deserve financial security for doing that which is in all of our best interests.

“E tū members across many industries have kept Aotearoa safe and thriving through the pandemic. Health workers, aviation workers, cleaners, security guards, food workers, and many more have shown exactly how essential they are. 

“The best way to thank these workers for their outstanding service is to make sure they are always properly paid for the work they do and any sacrifices they have to make.”

Annie also stressed the importance of following official advice and relying on the best information from the Ministry of Health.

“E tū members are encouraged to learn about the vaccine and why it’s so important in our fight against the pandemic. Excellent information is available on the Ministry of Health’s COVID-19 vaccine page.

“With proper protections, and good information, Aotearoa can once again show the world how it’s done.”

ENDS

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

Cleaners and security guards call for government action

E tū members in cleaning and security are meeting Government ministers this evening to ensure they will keep their promises to some of the lowest paid workers in Aotearoa New Zealand.

Members will be calling on the Government to prioritise the employment relations policies in the Labour Party 2020 Election Manifesto, including the implementation of Fair Pay Agreements, the extension of the Living Wage to all workers employed by government contractors, and extending Part 6A of the Employment Relations Act to security guards, giving them protection when contracts change hands.

Workers in both the cleaning and security industries face low wages and poor conditions due to long-standing problems with the contracting out of services and competitive tendering.

Fair Pay Agreements would set minimum standards that apply to whole industries, stopping the ‘race to the bottom’ to win contracts, and paying the Living Wage is necessary to allow people to live with dignity and participate fully in society.

Many of E tū’s cleaning and security members work in government buildings, meaning they are employed by the government, though indirectly. E tū members are calling on the Government to be a responsible employer by ensuring their lowest paid, hardworking, essential workers get a better deal.

Auckland cleaner Roruru Lulu Low is campaigning for Fair Pay Agreements because the competitive tendering process sees cleaners stuck on the minimum wage.

“Fair Pay Agreements are very important to us because in the cleaning industry there are so many different companies and they are always race to the bottom to get contracts at the lowest rate,” Lulu says.

“Even when the employers say they would like to pay more, they say they can’t because of the competition. This means it doesn’t matter how hard we fight, we never get more than the minimum wage.”

Wellington security guard Jayson Ormsby is calling for security guards to be included in Part 6A of the Employment Relations Act.

“My workmates and I have families, rent, power and food bills to think about. Being shifted from site to site, contractor to contractor, is stressful,” Jayson says.

“We don’t need this uncertainty. To the Government – you can make a difference by changing Part 6A to add security guards. This would give us peace of mind.”

Auckland cleaner Malia Uiasele Tupola earns just over the minimum wage, and it is not enough to live on.

“We really need the Living Wage, because the price of everything is going up. We need to be able to afford the rent, pay the bills, and support our families,” Malia says.

“My dream is to buy my own house and to bring my 11-year-old son over from Tonga to go to school here.”

ENDS

For more information and comment:
Yvette Taylor, E tū Organiser, 027 585 6120

Government walking the talk on the Living Wage for new MIQ guards

E tū is pleased with the Prime Minister’s announcement today that the Government is looking to directly employ any new security guards needed at managed isolation and quarantine facilities and guards will be paid at least the Living Wage.

Security guard Rosey Ngakopu says it is great news and very important.

“So many guards are doing really hard mahi through the COVID-19 crisis, and we need to be paid a wage that reflects that,” Rosey says.

“We’ve had to go above and beyond, doing extra duties and quickly reacting to the changing situation. We’re doing really important work that’s a big part of keeping the community safe at the moment.”

Rosey gets paid the Living Wage at one of her sites and says it has significantly improved her life.

“I now have a savings account. I can afford the things that my son and I need. I’ve been able to reduce my hours, so I can have more family time, rest, and even a social life!”

E tū Assistant National Secretary Annie Newman says it shows the Government is finally honouring the Living Wage promise that all three Government parties made in the 2017 election campaign.

“E tū members have kept the pressure on to make sure the Government pay the Living Wage to all workers in the core public sector like cleaners and security guards,” Annie says.

“Just last month, the Government delivered the Living Wage for guards at the Ministry of Social Development. We now need to see the Living Wage in all government contracts.

“Throughout the crisis, we’ve been constantly reminded just how important and often difficult these jobs are. Higher wages lead to healthier and more vibrant communities. It makes perfect sense for the Living Wage to be an important factor in the COVID-19 response and rebuild.”

ENDS

For more information or comment
Annie Newman, 027 204 6340

Huge Living Wage victory for MSD guards

Ministry of Social Development (MSD) security guards across the country are thrilled today to learn that they will finally be moving up to at least the Living Wage of $22.10 per hour.

Minister for Social Development Carmel Sepuloni announced today that around 400 Tautiaki (security guards) will be paid at least the Living Wage from 1 September.

 It comes after years of campaigning for public service workers who are employed by contractors to be paid at least the Living Wage.

MSD keep Work and Income offices across the country safe and secure. They are often posted outside Work and Income offices for hours at a time in all weather.

Robert Duston says it can be a hard job, but one he enjoys.

“I like being able to help less fortunate people have a good day and feel that they’ve had a good experience. “Yes the Living Wage has taken a long time, but I’m really happy the Government has recognised we’re worth it.”

Robert says: “It’s my 50th birthday next year and earning the Living Wage for me means that I can start saving to go on a holiday and not have to worry about paying bills along the way.”

E tū organiser Yvette Taylor says that the announcement amounts to a promise finally honoured by the Government.

“In 2017, all three government parties committed to paying at least the Living Wage to people employed by contractors in the core public service,” Yvette says.

“The way to deliver that is by making the Living Wage the minimum rate that people must be paid when negotiating with government contractors for services like security.

ENDS

For more information and comment:
Yvette Taylor, 027 585 6120

Auckland Council’s contracted cleaners to get Living Wage

Living Wage campaigners in Auckland are celebrating the news that Auckland Council has committed to paying a Living Wage to all its contracted cleaners in this council term.

On July 30, Auckland Council passed its Emergency Budget, which included the Living Wage commitment to the council’s contracted cleaners.

Members of the Living Wage Movement Aotearoa New Zealand were present at the Governing Body meeting on Thursday morning.

Former E tū delegate Malia Langi is relieved and happy the Living Wage will now be a reality for her colleagues.

A cleaner for six years, Malia says: “Now there’s no more worries. I’ll feel relieved now it’s been passed – everything that we were working and campaigning for the past eight years,” she says.

“We just thank all our supporters, our communities, our union, and everybody that was on our side.”

E tū Assistant National Secretary Annie Newman says it’s a great achievement for the movement to see Auckland Council extending the Living Wage to more workers.

“The wages of the lowest paid directly employed council workers were lifted to a Living Wage in 2019 and we’re absolutely thrilled that this has now been extended to contracted cleaners.

“This is a great step forward in creating a decent, fair system of social procurement. Our aspiration is to see all workers throughout New Zealand on the Living Wage.”

ENDS

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