Category: Public and Commercial Services

E tū: Waikato Hospital assault tip of iceberg

E tū says the serious assault on a security guard at Waikato Hospital this week is the tip of the iceberg and it’s time to end the use of security contractors who don’t provide adequate training, support and safe staffing.

Today, our injured member is out of the hospital’s High Dependency Unit but has severe injuries and faces a long recovery.

E tū Industry Coordinator, Sam Jones says assault is a daily risk for hospital security guards who are routinely understaffed and frequently poorly trained.    

“Most guards are too afraid to speak publicly for fear of losing their jobs, but we know of at least six cases where security guards have suffered serious assaults in our hospitals,” says Sam.

“In one case a guard was knocked unconscious and wasn’t found for half an hour; another is still recovering months after an assault with a fire extinguisher and another was the target of a knife attack.”  

He says the DHBs are placing their faith in budget security firms, which are failing to keep workers safe.

“They have an obligation to provide a safe working environment. They might be saving money by using contractors, but our injured worker has paid a very high price for that.”

The Convenor of E tū’s Runanga, Sharryn Barton is a former security guard, who once worked at the secure unit at Henry Bennett, Waikato Hospital’s mental health unit.

She says wages and conditions for security guards are very poor, while training is sometimes non-existent, despite the risks.

“Most contractors are desperate to get the work, so they’ll overlook certain things to get the contract, and that puts the workers at risk,” she says.

“Many are Tangatawhenua, Pacific Islanders and other migrants and women – the easiest people to exploit because they’re desperate for the job.

“I think we need an investigation into the security industry including the practices and ethics of these contractors as well as the people who contract them, to make sure workers aren’t bearing unacceptable risks just to keep their jobs.”

Sharryn says the whole issue of procurement standards for services such as hospital security also needs to be investigated.

Sam says the union will also be pushing WorkSafe to designate security as a high-risk occupation – a view shared by the better security firms and the New Zealand Security Association.

ENDS

For more information, contact:

Sam Jones E tū Industry Coordinator ph. 027 544 8563

To contact Sharryn Barton please call Karen Gregory-Hunt ph. 022 269 1170.

DHB, Allied Security fail assaulted security guard

E tū says Allied Security and the Waikato DHB failed in their duty to protect a hospital security guard who suffered serious injuries in an assault at Waikato Hospital early on Wednesday morning.

The guard was injured after she stepped in to protect nursing staff.

E tū Waikato senior organiser, Iriaka Rauhihi, who has visited the member, says she’s in a bad way in Waikato Hospital’s high-dependency unit, and the union is providing support for her and her family.

“She’s suffered severely, with multiple injuries to her head, face and body, and will require multiple surgeries. It’ll be a long road to recovery and we’re lucky we’re not dealing with a fatality,” she says.

Iriaka says the woman’s family is horrified by what’s happened to her.

“Obviously they are shattered and frightened. They want to know how come she was injured like this and why wasn’t she safe?”

The guard is employed by DHB security contractor, Allied Security which Iriaka says has consistently failed in its obligation to protect its security guards from harm.

She says under-staffing and working weeks in excess of 60 hours are common.

“Our members tell us they’re really tired, over-worked and fed-up. It’s about this employer not putting in the resources and staffing to keep people safe, especially in high-risk areas like Henry Bennett and the Emergency Department.”

Iriaka says Allied is aware of the problems, but won’t address them, raising the question of whether it should be working as a health sector contractor.

She says the Health Sector Relationships Agreement requires Allied to work constructively on issues such as safety, but “Allied doesn’t think it has to be part of it.”

Iriaka says the DHB also has to accept that it too has a duty to ensure a safe working environment.

“We’re calling on the DHB to intervene to ensure the contractor is keeping its workers safe, because at the moment the guards don’t feel safe. They feel overworked and at risk.

“This is a clear example of how unsuitable Allied is in terms of working in the health sector and the DHB needs to reconsider this contractor. Our member has suffered a horrific ordeal which could have been prevented.”

ENDS

For further information, contact:

Iriaka Rauhihi Senior E tū organiser, ph. 027 544 8697

OCS/DHB service workers’ strikes cancelled

The strikes scheduled for tomorrow by OCS contracted service workers at Hawkes Bay and Wairarapa DHBs have been cancelled.

This follows agreement between E tū and OCS on the proposed terms and conditions of a new collective agreement for the workers, which is based on the DHB Multi-Employer Collective Agreement, or MECA, settled for directly employed service workers and signed off before Christmas.

The MECA sets the conditions for 4000 hospital service workers and includes pay rises of up to 40 percent over the next three years.

E tū Industry Coordinator, Sam Jones says the agreement was reached after mediation and talks late last week between E tū and OCS.

He says OCS subsequently confirmed funding arrangements with their DHBs clients to get a deal ahead of the strike.

“After a lengthy period of frustrating delays our members’ determination to push for a deal got results,” says Sam.

“They were prepared to strike to get a settlement and they have succeeded. Without that, I think we’d all still be waiting. So, this is great for them,” he says.

Sam says the members will vote on the proposed settlement over the coming fortnight.

ENDS

For further information, contact:

Sam Jones, E tū Industry Coordinator ph. 027 544 8563

Westpac leads the pack

E tū congratulates Westpac for becoming an accredited Living Wage Employer.

Westpac is the first bank to become a Living Wage bank, following other large corporates like Vector and AMP.

While the bank’s directly employed staff are not affected, the workers employed by contractors will be getting a big pay bump as the Living Wage is rolled out.

E tū’s Living Wage Lead Organiser, Mat Danaher, says that it’s brilliant news for cleaners, security guards, and others.

“We know that workers employed by contractors can often get left out of the wages discussion. Westpac are showing that to truly be a responsible employer, anyone with regular and ongoing work in an organisation needs to be paid fairly,” Mat says.

“Many E tū members in jobs on or near the minimum wage have seen massive increases thanks to the Living Wage Movement and the employers who are stepping up to the plate.”

Mat says that it’s now time for other banks and wealthy organisations to get on board.

“Let’s face it – Westpac are one of very many organisations who could easily absorb the small cost of bringing workers employed by contractors up to the Living Wage. We’re calling on the other big Aussie banks, and indeed all large, profitable organisations, to take this important step.”

Mat says that organisations moving to the Living Wage has positive effects that reach further than just the workers who get an increase.

“All the evidence says that bringing up wages is the most straight-forward way to address inequality. This has massive flow-on effects for our whole economy. Low pay costs our country billions – through low productivity, poor health and education outcomes, and the government top ups that poverty wages necessitate.

“A big congratulations to Westpac for breaking the cycle. Our members across many industries and organisations are looking forward to achieving the same.”

ENDS

For more information and comment, please send Mat Danaher a text message – 021 336 519

E tū DHB MECA huge win for members

A new multi-employer agreement, or MECA, for public hospital service workers is a huge win for members, with many receiving pay-rises of up to 40 percent over the next three years.

The MECA sets the conditions for about 3500 service workers, including cleaners, laundry workers, orderlies, catering and security staff at the country’s 20 District Health Boards. E tū is confident about finalising the same settlement with the major DHB contractors by the end of the year.

Those on the lowest rates will benefit the most through formal training with this settlement lifting wages for another historically undervalued female dominated workforce.

“This is a fantastic outcome for members who have struggled with costs rising faster than their low wages,” says Sam Jones, E tū’s National Hospitals Coordinator.

“It’s a major investment by the DHBs and the Government in the lowest paid workers in our public hospitals and helps deliver on the Government’s promise to lift the living standard of those at the bottom,” he says.

Sam says by lifting wages, the MECA will benefit families and communities with the worst health statistics.

“It’ll be easier for people to pay the bills and feed their families properly so they’re healthier and happier.”

“Everyone is looking forward to the new pay deal,” says Auckland DHB cleaner, Lena Hiku.

“We will get a good wage in 40 hours without having to work overtime on the weekend. This will be good for our family life and for our health,” she says.

Sam says the DHBs are committed to providing the training workers need to gain qualifications with higher wage rates, “which is great news for our members.

“These jobs are an important entry point into the health service and the promotion of training will enable some to progress in the public health sector making the settlement a real win/win.

“The increases are impressive and the work of E tū on behalf of members, and the DHB on behalf of the government should be applauded.”

ENDS

For further information, contact:

Sam Jones E tū National Hospitals Coordinator ph. 027 544 8563

We can also put reporters in touch with members who can speak about the new MECA.

Some figures:

  • By the end of the MECA term, new workers on the basic scale will start on $20.90 an hour – an increase of 26.7 percent on the start rates.
  • E tū hopes to see all members earn a Level 3 qualification which will mean a pay rise from $17.28 to almost $25.00 by 2021 – an increase of 40.9%.
  • At the top of the basic grade, wages will lift to $21.25 an hour from June this year – an immediate increase of nearly 10 percent. This will increase to at least $25.63 over the next three years – which is 30 percent more than those on the top step of the basic grade earn now.

All new rates will be backdated to 25 June 2018

 

Hearing exposes health risks for vulnerable workers

The health risks of insecure work have been exposed during Select Committee submissions today on the Employment Relations Amendment Bill.

The Chairperson of the Hutt Union and Community Health Service, Muriel Tunoho told the Education and Workplace Select Committee that restoring meal breaks and protections for vulnerable workers is crucial to their health and wellbeing.

“At our service, we regularly see patients whose health has suffered because they are vulnerable workers, in industries where work is precarious,” says Ms Tunoho.

Part 6A of the Employment Relations Act protects the jobs of vulnerable workers, such as cleaners and catering assistants, where retendering results in a change of contractor.

However, five years ago, an exemption was made for firms with fewer than 20 workers, resulting in many cleaners losing their jobs, while others have seen cuts to working hours, pay and conditions.

“One of our patients recently lost most of his cleaning job when some of the facilities he cleaned were tendered and awarded to a small contractor,” says Ms Tunoho.

 

“His weekly pay dropped from $640.00 a week to $252.00 a week. He was struggling on his old income. His new income was impossible,” she said.

 

Ms Tunoho says the Service welcomes the fact the bill puts all contractors on the same footing but said it would like security guards added to the list of vulnerable workers.

E tū will be making more submissions on Part 6A, given the havoc wrought by the exemption.

The union also supports the Tramways Union’s call this morning for bus drivers to be covered by Part 6A, following a tender process set to cost hundreds of bus drivers their jobs.

One driver told the Select Committee the stress of possibly losing her job, or having her hours cut was causing her headaches, insomnia and depression.

“The drivers are subject to the same retendering and contracting model which has resulted in such precarious conditions for many of our own members,” says Jill Ovens, E tū Industry Coordinator.

“Often it is local and central government entities such as schools, police and councils which are the worst offenders,” says Jill.

ENDS

For further information, contact:

Jill Ovens E tū Industry Coordinator ph. 027 446 4966

Union alarmed by fatal assault on security guard

E tū, the union for security guards, says it’s alarmed at the death of a security guard following an assault outside the Papakura Countdown yesterday.

“We send our condolences to the family of this man, who died whilst working to keep others at the site safe,” says Jill Ovens, E tū Industry Coordinator.

“This is a tragedy for the family and will also be very upsetting for the man’s colleagues. No one should go to work and not return home at the end of the day,” she says.

Jill says the situation is particularly concerning given this was the second serious assault on a security guard within the past week.

A guard was also attacked in the Accident and Emergency Department at Auckland Hospital last Friday.

“This is a sobering reminder of the vulnerability of security officers, despite changes to health and safety legislation after the death of Charanpreet Dhaliwal on an Auckland building site in 2011,” says Jill.

“We will be following up in the wake of these attacks to see what lessons can be learned to help keep these workers safe. This is dangerous work, done by people working long hours for very low wages.”

Jill says the union is working with WorkSafe New Zealand and the New Zealand Security Association on best practice guidelines for health and safety for security guards.

ENDS

For further information, contact:

Jill Ovens E tū Industry Coordinator, ph. 027 446 4966

Cleaners at Auckland meat works muzzled

Cleaning contractor, ISS has gagged the cleaners at Auckland Meat Processors, to stop them speaking out against cuts to a third of the plant’s cleaning staff.

AMP is owned by Wilson Hellaby which the cleaners have been told is behind the cuts.

Five of the 15-strong cleaning team received letters last week telling them they are now redundant and offering them redeployment options.

The cleaners believe the cuts will compromise hygiene standards at the plant and they want to go public.

However, they have been told not to speak to media, and they fear for their jobs.

Senior Organiser, Len Richards says most of Auckland’s beef supply is processed at the plant and Countdown is its major customer.

“This is a major meat supplier and it’s disgraceful that the cleaners have been muzzled to stop them airing legitimate worries about the safety of these cuts,” says Len.

He says the redundant workers have been offered casual work at the plant which suggests these are not genuine redundancies.

“It seems their real intention is to axe the secure, full-time jobs these workers had and to casualise them, so it can save money on decent conditions like sick leave and holiday pay.

“For this wealthy company to target its lowest paid, most vulnerable workers this way is miserable.”

Other jobs offered to the redundant cleaners are for only up to 25 hours a week, which the cleaners can’t live on.

“This whole episode is disgraceful,” says Len.

“We would urge Wilson Hellaby to advise ISS that the cuts are no longer required and to reinstate these workers.”

ENDS

For more information, contact:

Len Richards E tū Senior organiser, ph. 027 204 6338

We can put media in touch with cleaners who are prepared to speak anonymously.

Cleaners fight a dirty deal at meat works

Cleaners at Auckland Meat Processors, owned by Wilson Hellaby, are vowing to stand together and fight a plan to axe a third of their jobs.

The cleaners work under contract to ISS which plans to slash job numbers from 15 to ten.

ISS has told the cleaners it is Wilson Hellaby which is demanding the cuts in staff.

“How can Wilson Hellaby expect ISS to maintain the standard of hygiene required of a major meat processing plant if they cut one third of the jobs of their highly skilled cleaning staff?” asks Len Richards, E tū senior organiser.

Union delegate and cleaning supervisor, Tavita Aitu, says: “we need all our cleaners to do this job properly.

“The boning floors and chillers won’t pass inspection if they are not properly cleaned.”

The cleaners are backed by the plant’s butchers whose union has conveyed their concerns to Wilson Hellaby.

“The butchers pointed out the hygiene risks posed by these cuts and they made it clear they cannot fill in for the cleaners if the jobs go,” says FIRST Union organiser, Marcus Coverdale.

Len says most of Auckland’s beef supply comes out of this plant. Countdown is their major customer.

He says Aucklanders need to know what is happening which is why the cleaners are speaking out.

“We are hoping the public feels strongly enough to support the cleaners and persuade Wilson Hellaby that these cuts are untenable,” says Len.

Len says Wilson Hellaby promotes its proud history of quality, innovation and service: “The company needs to remember its reputation as it considers the future of these jobs,” he says.

ENDS

For further information, contact:

Len Richards E tū Senior Organiser, ph. 027 204 6338

Delegate, Tavita Aitu can be contacted through Len.  He works overnight but is available during the day to speak to media.