Category: Public and Commercial Services

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.

Parliament’s cleaners and caterers win the Living Wage

The cleaners and caterers that keep parliament tidy and healthy are going to be paid the official Living Wage by 2020.

Speaker of the House Trevor Mallard made the announcement yesterday, to a gathering of E tū  members and Living Wage community representatives.

Mr Mallard announced that catering staff would be paid the official Living Wage (currently $20.20) from July 2019, and cleaners would follow by the beginning of 2020.

There will also be steps towards the Living Wage, with both cleaners and caterers having a pay rise of half the difference between their current rate and the Living Wage in July next year.

Jan Logie from the Green Party and Tracey Martin from NZ First spoke in support of the decision.

Parliamentary cleaner and E tū member Eseta Ailaoa also spoke at the event, explaining that the wage will allow her to do things that weren’t possible before.

“This will make a difference. I will be able to save so money for myself and my kids to go on holiday,” Eseta said.

Labour hire court win against LSG Sky Chefs

E tū has won its Employment Court case against LSG Sky Chefs for its exploitative use of labour hire workers.

LSG is the world’s largest inflight airline catering company with a near monopoly on airline catering in New Zealand.

E tū took the case on behalf of Kamlesh Prasad and Liutofaga Tulai, who worked for LSG through labour hire firm, Solutions Personnel Limited, also trading as Blue Collar Limited.

The union asked the court to declare that the workers’ real employer is LSG Sky Chefs – not the labour hire company – and the Employment Court agreed.

“This is a huge victory for the labour hire workers at LSG,” says E tū Assistant National Secretary, John Ryall.

“It is also a victory for the growing number of workers who aren’t directly employed by the firms they work for and are deprived of their rights under New Zealand employment law,” he says.

The court decision also recognises the exploitative nature of LSG’s use of labour hire, citing Ms Tulai’s working week of up to 62 hours and noting at one point she worked 34 full days of work without a day off.

Both plaintiffs worked for years for minimum wage or just above, with no holiday, sick leave or Kiwisaver entitlements, and they had to pay their own ACC cover.

“The Employment Court has recognised that the use of labour hire is a way to shift all the employment risk on to very vulnerable workers and to avoid employment obligations,” says John.

Liutofaga Tulai who worked for LSG for six years before losing her job will be eligible for backpay, as will Mr Prasad whom the court has ruled is an employee.

John says the decision is also a big win for LSG’s unionised labour hire workers who are now entitled to the superior pay and conditions included in the LSG Collective Agreement for directly employed workers.

E tū is now calling on the airline catering industry to get rid of labour hire completely and for all major airlines, including the national carrier, Air New Zealand, to take responsibility for this issue.

“A lot of people are being exploited by LSG and the airlines have to take some responsibility as a customer for the labour practices in their supply chains,” says John.

E tū is also urging the Government to investigate the use of labour hire in New Zealand and consider ways to remedy the denial of basic employment rights for these workers.

ENDS

For further information, contact:

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

E tū: National Government’s record on health funding a fail for members

E tū says it fears health services will deteriorate further in the face of Government denials that DHBs are underfunded.

E tū is the country’s largest private sector union with more than 55,000 members.

“A lot of our members are in the Counties Manukau area, where services have been so under-funded we have the highest rate of people waiting to get eye treatment,” says Jill Ovens, E tū’s Industry Coordinator for Public and Commercial Services.

Jill says unacceptable wait times for urology services in Dunedin are also symptomatic of chronic under-funding of health care.

“Our hospitals are struggling and our members are struggling like everyone else to access basic services,” she says.

“Many members are also on low wages, living in mouldy, unhealthy homes and they and their children have high health needs.”

She says that flows through into increased demand for basic health care.

Jill says she fears wait times will grow longer as the Government insists DHBs live within their means.

“The only way they can do that is by cutting services and that will affect our members who need those services.

“In Southland, they sacked the board two years ago and put in a Commissioner and it hasn’t helped the situation at all. What’s needed is more funding and for that we need a change of Government.”

ENDS

For more information, contact:

Jill Ovens E tū Industry Coordinator, Public and Commercial Services ph.027 446 4966

The Council of Trade Unions estimates $2.3 billion is needed to restore funding for 2017/18 to 2009/10 levels.

However, the CTU says only $0.8 billion was provided so the shortfall compared to 2010 is $1.4 billion.

It means that the next Government will need to find well over $2 billion for 2018/19 if it wishes to restore the value of funding.

E tū court action targets labour hire at LSG SkyChefs

E tū will be in the Employment Court in Auckland on Monday to argue its case on behalf of labour hire workers at global airline catering company, LSG SkyChefs.

The union is acting on behalf of workers Kamlesh Prasad and Liutofaga Tulai, and will argue that they and other labour hire workers should be entitled to the same employment conditions as directly-employed staff.

The company, which is owned by Lufthansa, operates kitchens in Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch, and Queenstown.

E tū Assistant National Secretary, John Ryall says the use of labour hire has been growing in New Zealand as employers seek to cut their costs.

But he says labour hire work is precarious.

“Using labour hire staff means employers have no responsibilities to these workers and can get rid of them at any time without going through the normal consultation processes,” says John.

“Labour hire can also be used to suppress wage demands because directly-employed workers fear being replaced by labour hire workers themselves,” he says.

John says many labour hire workers are migrants, who accept minimum wage, casualised jobs with labour hire companies because they have few other options.

ENDS

For more information, contact:

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

 

Proceedings begin at 9.30am, Monday, 14 August in the Auckland Employment Court. 

Strike action today by Wellington parking wardens

Wellington City Council parking officers will take strike action today to protest at the refusal by the Council to negotiate with their union over their wage rates.

The parking officers have been trying for over two years to get their collective agreement settled but the Council refuses to include wage rates in the agreement.

The parking wardens will strike from 3.30pm to 5pm this afternoon, with a picket in Courtenay Place.

E tū has also lodged a case with the Employment Relations Authority, seeking a ruling on the impasse with the Council.

“We believe that the ongoing refusal of the Council to negotiate wage rate or include them in our collective agreement is a serious breach of good faith,” says John Ryall, E tū Assistant Secretary and advocate for the parking officers.

“We have been to mediation three times, held high level meetings with the Council and now we feel that the only option is to go on strike,” he says.

The parking officers are promising a noisy show to drive home their frustration.

“We’re at the stage where we need to send the Council a message,” says E tū delegate, Steven Carlyon.

“This is about our ability and our right to bargain for our wages as well as being able to negotiate how we move up the wage scale and into other roles, maybe even management.

“It’s our right to have this in our collective agreement.  Everyone around New Zealand has the ability to have their wages written into their agreement so why is Wellington City Council not agreeing to this?”

ENDS

For further information, contact:

John Ryall E tū Assistant National Secretary and advocate for WCC Parking Wardens

ph. 027 520 1380

The parking officers will be picketing in Courtenay Place, from 3pm to 5.30pm, Friday 4 August. We have delegates who can speak to interested media.