Month: May 2019

E tū stands up for a ‘Just Transition’

Jacinda Ardern is correct when she says the world is moving on towards lower-carbon emissions and away from dependence on fossil fuels. There are internationally recognised carbon change targets and New Zealand’s coalition government is committed to aligning with those and being carbon-neutral (achieving net zero emission of carbon) by 2050.

The coalition government has established the Independent Commission for Climate Change to consider a pathway of transition towards that carbon-neutral economy and society.

Even Cameron Madgwick, the Chief Executive of the industry body, Petroleum Exploration and Production New Zealand accepts the world is moving towards lower-emission fuels.

Many E tū members feel a deep sense of responsibility to ensuring a sustainable planet for their grandchildren.

However, many E tū members work in carbon-linked jobs and those jobs are potentially affected. Our members work in mining, gas exploration and production, steel and aluminium making, electricity generation and aviation.

Many other members work in engineering and services supporting these operations.  E tū members in the West-Coast and Huntly mining operations, at NZ Aluminium and NZ Steel, Marsden Point and in the on and off-shore Taranaki oil fields support their local community economies with wages and conditions included in good union employment agreements.  

We stand up for those workers and their families and communities just as we do for all other 54,000 E tū members.

We know that Kiwi workers were the ones who paid the price for the economic and deregulatory transformation of the 1980s and 1990s; thrown on the scrap-head as their jobs disappeared or were replaced by low-wage, insecure work.  Our provincial regions in particular suffered.

We don’t stand for that.

E tū believes NZ should lead the way with a strategy of ‘Just-Transition’ in which we start planning now for the transition away from a carbon-based economy while ensuring that working people and their communities do not bear the brunt of this structural adjustment.

E tū is part of an international union movement, led by the peak global union organisation ITUC, that advocates for meaningful public and private sector strategies to ensure that good jobs and employment and income-related support is available as we transition out of carbon-linked jobs.

We call that a ‘Just Transition’ into new employment opportunities, and the work must start now on what is needed in such a Just Transition strategy. We can’t wait until it’s too late.  

We are not interested in some plan that puts a couple more case officers in regional WINZ offices.  We need a strategy for new high-value jobs and other forms of support that are  real, practical, relevant, resourced and sustainable. 

New Zealand can lead the way in this.  There are some promising examples overseas where unions have played an effective role in transitional strategies.  Germany and Scandinavia provide well known examples, but we can learn practical lessons from the transition from shale oil in Alberta, Canada and, closer to home, the framework of approach in the electricity sector in Australia.

We believe that the coalition government’s Climate Change Commission should have a central focus on employment-support related strategies and that this should start now.

That transitional pathway must also realistically consider the practical steps required to maintain our economic and employment capability serving our business and infrastructure as we work towards the target.

It is widely recognised, even by mainstream environmental groups, that natural gas is a lower emitter than thermal coal as a power source and that gas is a stepping-stone as we move away from thermal coal dependence.

Natural Gas is an important part of the strategy towards 2050.  It is needed to replace coal as the primary power source in industries like dairy production and as back-up for winter peaks in demand for energy production.  Gas is extensively used, for example, to power large boilers providing energy to manufacturing plant, hospitals, schools and hotels etc.

The amount of gas that is required during the transition to non-carbon and sustainable energy is not known at this point.  The coalition government’s Climate Change Commission should research and identify the amount of gas required at stages throughout the transition so that we can all have consensus on a clear plan.   

In New Zealand there is currently seven to ten years of permitted gas and oil exploration left. It is worth bearing that important role of gas in mind and allowing the Climate Change Commission to identify the real need.

Some will say that E tū is compromised in having a voice on climate change given we represent the interests of so many members in carbon-linked jobs.  We don’t shy away from that. It’s our job to stand up for working people. Miners played a key role in the struggles to establish a New Zealand union movement and a political voice for working people in parliament and we are really proud of that legacy.  Our members in mining, gas exploration and production live in communities that depend on their incomes.

But we understand and accept the challenges in looking to the future and we have a strong voice to offer on behalf of working people in the transformation to come.  Our bottom line is that we learn from recent history and ensure the interests of working people and their communities are paramount in that transformational journey.    

Bill Newson

National Secretary E tū

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.

Chorus Downer decision welcome

E tū welcomes today’s announcement by Chorus that Downer has secured the maintenance contracts for Chorus’s copper and fibre network outside Auckland and Northland.

Downer’s win comes at the expense of contracting company, Broadspectrum which formerly shared the work, but has now lost its contracts.  

“Downer is a highly experienced infrastructure company and the decision is reassuring in terms of the quality of maintenance work we can expect on the network,” says E tū Industry Coordinator, Joe Gallagher.

However, he says the decision will affect about 450 Broadspectrum workers who are now without a job.

“A major contractor has lost its work which will mean major upheaval. People will have to reapply for jobs. We’ll be working with Broadspectrum and Downer to facilitate that process. Downer is a large company so there’s a lot of opportunity,” says Joe.

Meanwhile, he says the union is very disappointed that Chorus contractor, Visionstream has had its network maintenance contracts reconfirmed in Auckland and Northland.

“This is extremely disappointing given the findings of the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment investigation around Visionstream’s employment practices,” says Joe.

“This can only be seen as Chorus’s way of telling the Government to mind its own business.

“These networks are critical infrastructure and in our biggest city, its care remains with a company that has been shown to support a sub-contracting model which has led to exploitation and breaches of basic labour standards.

“We will continue to monitor Visionstream’s compliance with employment standards and support any workers who need our assistance in Auckland and Northland,” he says.

ENDS

For more information, contact;

Joe Gallagher E tū Industry Coordinator ph. 027 591 0015  

E tū: Summit kickstarts Just Transition debate

E tū is looking forward to attending the Just Transition Summit in New Plymouth which begins tomorrow.

The union has a team of eight regional delegates as well as senior officials and executive members attending the Summit, which follows months of work by the Taranaki community on a draft roadmap for the transition of the oil and gas region from a high-emissions to a low-emissions (net zero) economy.

E tū Senior Industrial Officer, Paul Tolich says the Summit will kick-start debate on this transformation, not just in Taranaki, but also nationwide.

“We welcome the initiative of the Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern in convening this Summit,” says Paul.  

“This is the beginning of the roadmap for the Taranaki region which will also serve as a pilot for the rest of the country.

“Oil and gas have provided a prosperous living for many people in Taranaki, and it is the source of many jobs for our members. But the region will face huge changes in the years ahead as industries reduce emissions.

“This is the start of a national response to the economic, social, cultural and environmental challenges we face over the coming decades, as we manage climate change,” he says.

Paul describes this as the biggest challenge to the nation since the radical restructuring of the 1980s and 90s.

“There was no plan then to deal with the fallout for working people and their communities, many of which were decimated by the changes,” says Paul.

“What happened then is at the root of much of the inequality we face today, and we are not prepared to have that happen again,” he says.  

“We need an economic development plan, so the change is managed to preserve quality, well paid jobs and healthy new industries. It is of the greatest importance that we work to ensure this transition is a success over the years and decades to come.”

ENDS

For more information, contact:

Paul Tolich E tū Senior Industrial Officer ph. 027 593 5595

Strike action by Access Community co-ordinators

OUR WORK MATTERS: Access Community health coordinators, contact centre workers and administrators to take industrial action

Workers who co-ordinate the home support of over 20,000 aged, injured and disabled people across New Zealand have voted to take industrial action in total frustration at their employer’s refusal to raise their wages.

Despite playing a vital role in the care and support of around 3.8 million visits including scheduling visits and matching support workers to vulnerable clients, many of these workers are paid at the minimum wage.

“The employer’s latest offer was rejected unanimously at meetings around the country, with 100% of voters in support of industrial action and 100% rejection of the employer’s offer”, said their unions, PSA and E tū – the Home Support unions for New Zealand.

“We are really being stretched thin. Understaffing means we’re working longer and longer hours, in a job where more and more people need support out there in the community and in their homes. We are dedicated to our jobs and our clients, but we cannot continue under the current conditions – something has to change, and soon” says care coordinator, Kirsty Rowe.

“Industrial action is a last resort for these workers, but they believe it is also necessary to ensure that quality of care is maintained for their clients,” says Melissa Woolley, PSA assistant national secretary.

“Access says they can’t raise wages because of a lack of funding. But this is a business owned by Green Cross Health, the group behind Unichem and Life Pharmacy, which reported a net profit of $8million in the six months to September 2018,” Ms Woolley says.

“Access is a major home support provider, delivering around 20% of all home and community support in New Zealand, but it hasn’t increased wages for coordinators in the same way that competitors have.”

“Support workers received a significant pay boost from the 2017 care and support pay equity settlement. But coordinators, admin, and contact centre workers have been left behind – and now earn less than the support workers they are responsible for coordinating,” says E tū Home Support coordinator Kirsty McCully.

“These workers are the glue that hold Home Support together in New Zealand. Their work matters, and they deserve to be respected and paid properly for the contribution they make,” Ms McCully says.

The PSA and E tū have agreed to urgent mediation with Access, but members are preparing to take unprecedented strike action for the week of the 13th unless mediations sees a significantly improved offer from the employer.

Key company info:

Access Community Health is a subsidiary business of Green Cross Health Limiting, a primary health care services company listed on the New Zealand Stock Exchange. As of March 2019, the group had a market capitalisation of $143 million. 

Green Cross operates across three segments:    

  • Pharmacies: 362 pharmacies under its Unichem and Life Pharmacy brands
  • Medical: 41 medical centres under the doctors brand
  • Community: home support services to 21,400 clients through Access Community Health, with 3.8 million home visits in 2018, employing 3,500 support workers and 166 community nurses.[1]

Net profit attributable to shareholders increased from $16.9 million in 2017 to $18.7 million in 2018, and the company issued more shares and paid more in dividends to its shareholders. [2]


[1] https://www.greencrosshealth.co.nz/investors/GXH_Mar19%20Investor_Update_Presentation.pdf?a=get&i=132

[2] http://nzx-prod-s7fsd7f98s.s3-website-ap-southeast-2.amazonaws.com/attachments/GXH/320080/281885.pdf

Mediation for IDEA Services dispute

IDEA Services E tū members head into mediation tomorrow with IDEA Services ahead of planned strike action next week.

A second round of industrial action by the members is scheduled to on Monday, 13 May, affecting 3000 IDEA Services E tū members nationwide.

That follows an overwhelming vote by union members for a series of separate strikes over the next two months to support bargaining claims for their collective agreement.

This would be the second round of industrial action, following a four-hour strike on 1 April.

The members, who provide residential and vocational care for the intellectually disabled, are striking for higher pay for senior service workers, weekend pay rates and action on unsafe staffing levels.

An employer attempt to claw back health and safety rights was a contributing factor in the 99% margin to strike, says E tū Industry Coordinator, Alastair Duncan.

ENDS

For more information, contact:

Alastair Duncan E tū Industry Coordinator ph. 027 245 6593

E tū and the Just Transition Summit

Eventually, all of us will have to confront the fact we have to act on climate change. In Taranaki, they’re doing that sooner than most. For months, the community has been encouraged to take part in hui to debate what a pathway to a low-emissions economy might look like.

It’s a radical change and no easy ask in a province prosperous from oil and gas, and another key carbon emitter, dairying. Agricultural chemical production is a big local industry. These industries under-pin thousands of jobs and hundreds of firms. 

Taranaki is the pilot for how the rest of the country responds as we re-gear our economy to reduce emissions and combat global warming.

The Just Transition Summit in New Plymouth this week will explore how we get from here to there, built around the korero all over Taranaki this year on practical responses to this challenge. E tū has been proud to be a part of this, with our delegates joining other workers, local businesses, councils, iwi and the wider community in this work, which must be among the most comprehensive consultation exercises in recent times. But then there’s a lot at stake.

The pathway mapped out for Taranaki will be the pilot that guides similar initiatives nationally. It will be a bellwether for how the country manages the change from a carbon-driven to a carbon-neutral economy by 2050.

E tū has an 8-strong team of delegates attending and despite the huge challenges, the delegates say the mood in Taranaki is positive.

“The local community is embracing the Just Transition message,” says Toni Kelsen, E tū delegate and energy consultant. “Oil and gas have been good to Taranaki. It’s been good in terms of work. Now it’s about providing a good future for our kids. It’s about my grandchildren, that’s where I’m coming from.”

Tyrell Crean, local delegate and Central Region Representative for E tū’s Youth Network, also reports a positive mood in the pre-Summit workshops and community hui: “They all want change to happen and it’s good to see all the positivity. There are young people involved and there will be heaps of support for this to continue. There are a lot of good ideas about what should change.

“People are thinking about the future,” he says. “As mentors, we’re the ones who have to drive it for the next generation. I want it to turn out well for my kids.”

Protecting the future and securing decent work in their region are key priorities for our delegates. Changing energy use and farming practices mean the future of work is about new kinds of jobs and constant upskilling.

Tyrell Crean says there’s been a lot of exciting ideas ahead of the Summit about improving access to the on-the-job experience, education and training that people will need to adapt to the new world of work.

He says one workshop explored the idea of companies offering workers the chance to try a new job and learn a new skill. He says inter-linked companies was one idea for expanding job options and experience. But he says there are obstacles to that kind of flexibility and cost remains a huge barrier.

“Why not have a system where instead of one job, you can work in a different part of the company; where you can switch over, get trained and not lose money. Because at the moment if you want a new pathway, your job only pays a training wage and that stops people. With training and education, it comes down to money and if it’s affordable, people will do it.”

Toni, Tyrell and Balance Nutrients delegate, Sean Hindson also support better public transport.  It’s an obvious way to cut traffic but Sean says a good network would link the wealthy job-rich hubs of Taranaki with other parts of the region, so people had access to good jobs and training. He says it’s about reducing inequality.

“If you had decent infrastructure to allow youth and people in their 20s and 30s to commute around, and to connect those hubs of learning by trains, you could see the wealth shared around. So, I would say dream big.”

Indeed, some big ideas and cutting-edge science have emerged during the workshops ahead of the Summit. Sean says the debate has unlocked people’s imaginations. “This Just Transition thing, I love it. I love being part of it,” he says.

Sean acknowledges there will be many sceptics about what the Summit will achieve.

“People are always wary about that – you see a lot of sitting down and talking, people just chewing the fat. But I’m looking forward to some substance coming out of that. For now, we’re still in a talking phase but I’d be interested to see some solid data come out. I’m hoping all of our work will be taken on board.

“Wouldn’t it be amazing if we were trail-blazers globally and people took this and ran with it?

 “It’d be brilliant.”